Today’s Headlines

August 11, 2011 By Melissa Silverman

Must Reads

Who’s in the News

Why Americans should care about famine in Africa (William Frist, CNN Opinion)

The good news for the American taxpayer is that investments by our humanitarian and development organizations have worked. Through past advances in agriculture and food security led by the United States, we learned that from the more plentiful regions of Kenya, food is flowing to the areas of greatest need. Even though tens of thousands have died in recent weeks because of the famine, I am certain that the number would have been much higher if the American people had not so smartly invested over the past decade. Drought and famine are not new to the Horn of Africa. By examining past famines, we have learned that among the most important acute interventions is taking steps to improve health. This primacy of health is not generally recognized by the public, but it is by USAID administrator Rajiv Shah, who accompanied us.

On the Ground in the Horn of Africa (Rajiv Shah, USAID Impact Blog)

Yesterday, I arrived in Dadaab with representatives from across the United States Government, including Dr. Jill Biden, Special Assistant to the President Gayle Smith, Senator Bill Frist and Assistant Secretary of State Eric Schwartz.  The trip underscored the commitment of the U.S. Government—the single largest donor in the region—to respond to the immediate crisis with life-saving assistance and investments in long-term solutions to hunger. Ultimately, we know that it is smarter and cheaper to invest in food security than face the consequences of famine and food riots.

Politics/Foreign Policy

Aid officials: not the time to cut U.S. food aid (Lesley Wroughton, Reuters)

Aid officials warned on Wednesday that the famine in the Horn of Africa would escalate significantly if October rains fail to materialize, and cautioned U.S. lawmakers this was not the time to cut funding. Some 12 million people across the drought-hit Horn of Africa region have been affected by the famine that has enveloped parts of Somalia, Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti. The concerns about the spreading food crisis come as the House Appropriations Committee proposes further funding cuts for USAID in fiscal year 2012 by $488 million from last year’s level and $705 million less than the Obama administration requested.

Rick Perry, the “hawk internationalist” (Josh Rogin, Foreign Policy)

Foreign policy hands with knowledge of the prospective candidate’s identity, which is still taking shape, told The Cable that Perry is planning to stake out political territory as a defense-minded but internationally engaged candidate, contrasting himself with the realism of Jon Huntsman, the ever-changing stance of Mitt Romney, or the Tea Party budget cutting focus of Michelle Bachmann and Ron Paul. “He will distinguish himself from other Republicans as a hawk internationalist, embracing American exceptionalism and the unique role we must play in confronting the many threats we face,” one foreign policy advisor with knowledge of Perry’s thinking told The Cable. “He has no sympathy for the neo-isolationist impulses emanating from some quarters of the Republican Party.”

Kyl a Likely Defender of Nuclear Weapons Programs on Deficit Panel (Emily Cadei, CQ)

Nuclear weapons upgrades, one of the programs under scrutiny as part of looming defense spending cuts, got a major boost Wednesday with the appointment of Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl to the new Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction…Veterans Affairs and the State Department, however, both have allies on the new panel, which will be a key advantage in the high-stakes competition for security dollars that the spending cap is likely to unleash. One Senate Democratic appointee, Patty Murray of Washington, is chairwoman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee. Another, John Kerry of Massachusetts, heads Foreign Relations.

Deficit-reduction ‘supercommittee’ stocked with congressional veterans (Paul Kane and Felicia Sonmez, Washington Post)

Congressional leaders, rather than embracing the anti-Washington environment gripping the nation after the 2010 midterms, have turned almost exclusively to seasoned veterans to try to produce a bipartisan deal to ease the government’s debt crisis and possibly rewrite the tax code. Their deadline is basically Thanksgiving. The question now is whether this group can draw on its combined 180-plus years of congressional experience to forge an agreement or whether it will end up gridlocked in a manner similar to other special fiscal panels established to solve the nation’s economic woes. Budget experts rendered a split verdict about the group’s chances, with no one doubting the panel’s credentials.