Today’s Headlines

June 30, 2011 By Melissa Silverman

Who’s In the News

Obama uses combative new tone to retake reins on economic, foreign policy issues (Washington Post, Peter Wallsten and Zachary A. Goldfarb)

Using the grand backdrop of an East Room news conference, Obama clearly had a mission Wednesday: to reassert a commanding presence on the economic and foreign policy issues that are defining his presidency — and could determine whether he wins reelection. Recent polls show that any bounce Obama experienced after the May 1 killing of Osama bin Laden and earlier signs of economic recovery has evaporated — and Republicans seeking to challenge the president in next year’s election have taken to calling him a failed leader.

Gates weighs toll of war (Reuters, Phil Stewart, Missy Ryan, and David Alexander)

Robert Gates, in his final interview as defense secretary, grew quiet as he tried to articulate the heavy toll his job took on him over the past four and a half years — every day of them during wartime. President Barack Obama has said Gates will go down in history as one of America’s greatest defense secretaries. The soft-spoken former CIA director, however, appears uncomfortable at the accolades as he leaves office.

Robert Gates’s Departure Is Hillary Clinton’s Opportunity (US News, Jessica Rettig)

But, where Gates had been willing to rally along with Clinton for more foreign assistance under State as part of national security, Panetta hasn’t made his intentions clear, says Robert Weitz, director of the Center for Political-Military Analysis at the Hudson Institute, a conservative-leaning think-tank in Washington. As a result, Clinton may have to become more outspoken in order to bring attention to her department’s priorities abroad, particularly amid the budget-cutting atmosphere in Washington. “It’s not clear that Panetta has the same commitment to boosting the nonmilitary tools…especially if he’s going to make an effort, which he might, to cut back a lot on military spending,” says Weitz. “He may not want to further antagonize his military constituency by pushing for more funding going to State.

Smart Power

Women’s Rights Key to Afghan Success (The Hill Op-Ed, Laura W. Bush)

Afghanistan is at that delicate moment in the development of a free society when the weight of its new institutions will either shift toward a free future or back toward an oppressive past. And whether it continues to protect and expand human rights could determine in which direction the country goes.

How Smartphones Can Safeguard The Future Of Agriculture In Uganda (Huffington Post, Deborah Bassett)

What does mobile phone technology have to do with farmers in Uganda? According to Karl Muth, an economist from The London School of Economics working with Grameen Foundation, the answer is simple — mobile technology is a key ingredient in building and managing the financial products farmers need in Uganda.

Ending violence against women: crucial to global development (Guardian)

Evidence shows that when women earn and manage their own money they are more likely to spend it educating and feeding their children. As it stands, there are millions of children like Nurbanu’s who could and should play are part in their country’s economic development but don’t, because of discrimination against their mothers.

Politics/Foreign Policy

Defense cuts appear likely as pressure grows on debt deal (The Hill, Eric Wasson and John Bennett)

As few as 30 House Republicans would likely consider voting against a debt-ceiling deal that cuts $300 billion from security spending, according to a GOP aide. The relatively small bloc of opposition to the level of defense cuts floated by the White House suggests the GOP’s traditional opposition to reducing military spending has taken a backseat to warding off tax increases.

Brennan: Counterterrorism strategy focused on al-Qaeda’s threat to homeland (Washington Post, Karen DeYoung)

President Obama’s counterterrorism strategy is narrowly focused on al-Qaeda and its ability to strike the U.S. homeland and is “not designed to combat directly every single terrorist organization in every corner of the world,” White House counterterrorism chief John O. Brennan said Wednesday. He said the United States will continue to use “the full range of our foreign policy tools” to prevent those states from endangering U.S. national security.