Washington Post: The Environmental Protection Agency took the unusual step of revoking a permit Thursday for the country’s largest surface mine, a setback for the controversial practice of “mountaintop removal” that helps produce 10 percent of the nation’s coal.
The 2,300-acre operation at the Mingo Logan Coal Co.’s Spruce No. 1 coal mine in West Virginia has been mired in litigation since 1998.
The EPA’s decision could affect dozens of other mining projects across Appalachia, where firms have been blasting the peaks off mountains for years to reach coal seams and then depositing the remaining rubble in surrounding valleys. While the federal government issued permits for hundreds of these activities under the Clinton and George W. Bush administrations, the EPA adopted new environmental guidelines in April and is now reviewing 33 other pending permits.
The EPA’s assistant administrator for water, Peter S. Silva, said the Spruce No. 1 coal mine … “would use destructive and unsustainable mining practices that jeopardize the health of Appalachian communities and clean water on which they depend.”
…The EPA used its authority under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act – which it has used only 12 other times in its history – to argue that the subsequent valley fills would harm the area’s water quality, habitat and wildlife.
President Barack Obama talks with Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communication, and Director of Speechwriting Jon Favreau, in the Outer Oval Office, Jan. 13, 2011. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
An Open Letter to Parents Following the Tragedy in Tucson
Like so many Americans all across the country, Barack and I were shocked and heartbroken by the horrific act of violence committed in Arizona this past weekend. Yesterday, we had the chance to attend a memorial service and meet with some of the families of those who lost their lives, and both of us were deeply moved by their strength and resilience in the face of such unspeakable tragedy.
As parents, an event like this hits home especially hard. It makes our hearts ache for those who lost loved ones. It makes us want to hug our own families a little tighter. And it makes us think about what an event like this says about the world we live in – and the world in which our children will grow up.
In the days and weeks ahead, as we struggle with these issues ourselves, many of us will find that our children are struggling with them as well. The questions my daughters have asked are the same ones that many of your children will have – and they don’t lend themselves to easy answers….
….We can teach them the value of tolerance – the practice of assuming the best, rather than the worst, about those around us. We can teach them to give others the benefit of the doubt, particularly those with whom they disagree.
…We can explain to them that although we might not always agree with those who represent us, anyone who enters public life does so because they love their country and want to serve it.
Christina Green felt that call. She was just nine years old when she lost her life….
And that’s something else we can do for our children – we can tell them about Christina and about how much she wanted to give back. We can tell them about John Roll, a judge with a reputation for fairness; about Dorothy Morris…. And we can work together to honor their legacy by following their example – by embracing our fellow citizens; by standing up for what we believe is right; and by doing our part, however we can, to serve our communities and our country.
(I confidently predict right wing OUTRAGE over this wonderful letter, particularly about the passages marked in red – “Look, look, she’s blaming us!” But then again, when was there ever no OUTRAGE from the right over anything the Obamas have ever said and done?? Thank you, First Lady)
President Obama talks with speechwriter Cody Keenan aboard Air Force One on the flight to Tucson, Jan. 12
President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama are greeted by officials after arriving at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson
….greeting Ron Barber, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ district director, and members of his family at University Medical Center in Tucson
…..greeting shooting victims and their family members at the University of Arizona’s McKale Memorial Center. Pam Simon, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ outreach coordinator who was shot twice, sits in the background.
….with members of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ staff at the University of Arizona’s McKale Memorial Center
President Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama and Mark Kelly, the husband of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, listen as Daniel Hernandez delivers remarks during the memorial service
Homeland Security Secretary and former Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano stands with Mark Kelly
People embrace as President Obama makes mention of first responders, medical personnel, and those who helped stop the gunman, during the memorial service
Daniel Hernandez, the 20-year-old intern credited with saving the life of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, receives a standing ovation
President Obama greets Mavy Stoddard and members of the Stoddard family. Dorwan Stoddard, Mavy’s husband, died while protecting her during Saturday’s shooting.
All Official White House Photos by Pete Souza and Chuck Kennedy
Steve Benen (Washington Monthly): To the delight of the audience at last night’s memorial service, President Obama told attendees that he’d just come from Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ bedside. “And I want to tell you – her husband Mark is here and he allows me to share this with you – right after we went to visit, a few minutes after we left her room and some of her colleagues in Congress were in the room, Gabby opened her eyes for the first time,” the president said.
In yet another disheartening display, some on the right would have us believe Obama wasn’t telling the truth. He was, but the accusation itself is a reminder of just what’s become of our discourse.
In one of the most cynical displays in recent memory, following the lead of Gateway Pundit Jim Hoft, several conservative websites … suggested that President Obama lied last night…
In a recently-completed press conference, Giffords’ doctor Peter Rhee explained that what Obama said last night about Giffords opening her eyes was “true” … the “lie” the right had uncovered wasn’t a lie at all.
…. Obama had heartening news about a congresswoman who very nearly died, and that news happened to be true. For some conservatives, however, this was not only an opportunity to catch the president in some kind of “gotcha” moment….
Is the right really this desperate? Do they hang on the president’s every word, wondering how to manipulate his every remark into some kind of cheap attack?
Good lord, these guys really need to grow up. This is just pathetic.
Washington Post: Doctors treating Rep. Gabrielle Giffords said Thursday she has reached “a major milestone” medically with her ability to open her eyes and seemingly respond to her surroundings as she recovers….
In a news conference … the doctors said they were pleased that Giffords opened her unbandaged left eye “spontaneously” Wednesday night in response to the presence of friends from Congress….
G. Michael Lemole Jr., the hospital’s chief neurosurgeon, and Peter Rhee, the head of emergency care, said Giffords since then has also been able to sit on the edge of her bed and dangle her legs over the side, move both of her arms and legs and open both of her eyes.
“This is a major leap forward,” Lemole said. “This is a major milestone for her, and we’re hoping she crosses through many more.” Rhee said Giffords, 40, is “becoming more and more alert . . . and she’s making much more spontaneous movements as we have completely stopped all the medications that might blunt her mental status.”
“She’s starting to become aware of her surroundings,” Lemole said. “And that’s a very important step on her next move forward.”
…Giffords, who remains in critical condition, is one of five wounded patients who were still at the hospital Thursday morning. Rhee said four others are in fair condition. One is having surgery, and another is being discharged Thursday, he said. “Everybody is making fantastic forward progress,” Rhee said.
AP: Caroline Kennedy unveiled the nation’s first online presidential archive Thursday, a $10 million project to digitize the most important papers, photographs and recordings of President John F. Kennedy’s days in office.
Users can sort through the drafts of Kennedy’s “Ask not what your country can do for you,” speech and see how he tinkered with the words of that most famous line from his inauguration. Or they can listen to his personal phone calls and read his letters.
….After four years of work, the Kennedy Presidential Library in Boston has made that a reality. Archivists digitized over 200,000 pages, 1,200 recordings and 300 museum artifacts, as well as reels of film and hundreds of photographs….
….For students across the country, the online archive will mean access to primary documents for school research. They could examine Kennedy’s correspondence with Martin Luther King Jr. from the time they first met to the time King was jailed in Birmingham, Ala.
Drafts of Kennedy’s speeches show how he was writing and editing along with speechwriter Theodore Sorensen, giving people a sense of the president’s power as a writer…
…January 20 is the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy’s inauguration….
John F Kennedy Presidential Library and Museumhere
Steve Chapman (Chicago Tribune): We all know that Barack Obama could have had a pretty good career as a law professor, a writer or a state legislator. What had never occurred to me before is that he might have made a good pastor.
His remarks at the memorial service in Tucson — steeped in emotion, infused with wisdom, animated by a generous spirit — were exactly what his shocked, grieving countrymen needed to hear. They were consoling, they were cathartic and they were inspiring.
The powerful address was also a reminder of the qualities that caused the citizenry to elect him in 2008. He rose to the occasion by eloquently invoking themes that dramatize our essential unity even in the face of events that have the potential to polarize. “Our hopes and dreams are bound together,” he emphasized.
It was not his purpose to score political points. On the contrary, he gracefully absolved conservatives of the charge that their angry rhetoric was to blame for the massacre. He made it plain that this is one of those events too large for glib scapegoating.
But he also used the occasion as an opportunity for the sober, humble reflection that individuals and nations need to do every so often. He urged us to act according to the better angels of our nature. But more important, he provided an example of how it’s done.
A lot of Americans don’t agree with his policies or like his personality. But I suspect that tonight, even many of them must have felt, at least for a moment, that Obama is their president, too.
Jonathan Freedland (UK Guardian): Throughout his presidency a doubt about Barack Obama has lingered…. the fear was that – for all his oratorical brilliance – Obama somehow lacked empathy, that he was a slightly chilly, aloof figure, that he struggled to connect emotionally.
We’ll hear much less of that talk now.
For the address he gave at last night’s memorial service was elegiac, heartfelt and deeply moving. It both rose to the moment and transcended it: after days of noise and rancour, he carved out a moment of calm.
Much of the speech was dedicated to its core function: to commemorate the dead and comfort those in mourning … in all this, he spoke less like a politician than a pastor or priest comforting a grieving community. The focus on those who had saved lives was an attempt to offer hope amid the sadness…
….This was meant to be the Republicans’ week … instead they look small – as well as defensive, fending off accusations that it was the violent rhetoric of the right that fuelled the current toxic political environment. None smaller than the de facto leader of today’s Republican party, Sarah Palin, who preceded the Tucson address with an aggressive, self-regarding and petty-minded videotaped message that claimed she had been the victim of a “blood libel”. The contrast between the two performances could not have been sharper.
Obama looks the bigger person, calling for a discourse that heals not wounds. That puts him in the place all presidents covet: above the fray, beyond mere Democrat or Republican….
But such thoughts are for later. What will be remembered today are moments like those when he told his audience that Gabrielle Giffords had opened her eyes for the first time – moments when only the most cold-hearted would not have felt a tear. What we saw from Obama in Tucson will be a defining, even cherished moment in his presidency.
Representatives Gabrielle Giffords (left), Kirsten Gillibrand (center), and Debbie Wasserman Schultz (right) in a photo taken in 2009
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz on visiting Gabrielle Giffords in hospital yesterday:
SENATOR GILLIBRAND: Well, we were very excited that we were even going to have the chance of getting to visit her hospital room…. we were telling her how proud we were of her and how she was inspiring the whole nation with her courage and with her strength. And then Debbie and I started joking about all the things we were going to do after she got better. And we were holding her hand and she was responding to our hand-holding. She was rubbing our hands and gripping our hands … we knew she could hear and understand what we were saying and she moved her leg, and so we knew she was responding. And the more we joked about what we were going to do, she started to open her eyes literally.
… her eyes hadn’t opened — we didn’t know that — and so she started to struggle. And one of her eyes is covered with a bandage because it was damaged in the gunfire. So her eye is flickering. And Mark sees this and gets extremely excited. … so he said, Gabby, open your eyes, open your eyes. And he’s really urging her forward. And the doctor is like perking up and everyone is coming around the bed. And she’s struggling and she’s struggling … maybe 30 seconds, where she’s really trying to get her eyes open….
And then she finally opens her eyes and you could she was like desperately trying to focus and it took enormous strength from her. And Mark could just — can’t believe it. I mean, he’s so happy. And we’re crying because we’re witnessing something that we never imagined would happen in front of us.
And so Mark says, he says — he said, Gabby, if you can see me, give us the thumbs up, give us the thumbs up. And so we’re waiting and we’re waiting and —
REPRESENTATIVE WASSERMAN SCHULTZ: And she didn’t at first.
SENATOR GILLIBRAND: … she’s really trying to focus … you could see she hadn’t opened her eyes in days. And then instead of giving the thumbs up, she literally raises her whole arm like this — like this. It was unbelievable. And then she reaches out and starts grabbing Mark and is touching him and starts to nearly choke him — she was clearly trying to hug him.
…. it was such a moment. And we were just in tears of joy watching this and beyond ourselves, honestly. And then Mark said, you know, touch my ring, touch my ring. And she touches his ring and then she grabs his whole watch and wrist. And then the doctor was just so excited. He said, you don’t understand, this is amazing, what’s she’s doing right now, and beyond our greatest hopes.