TGIFriday Reads

I can’t believe it’s Friday already.  It just seems like my recent bout with the flu put me in some other time zone.  There is so much going on right now my head is spinning from all the news.  We have a nuclear melt down, another war with another madman, and congress nitpicking over little line items in the budget when there’s a sustained high rate of unemployment.  What’s next?

The WSJ reports that Egypt is arming the Libyan Rebels and that the White House knows this.  This is a clear indication that Libya’s neighbors want Gadhafi gone.

The shipments—mostly small arms such as assault rifles and ammunition—appear to be the first confirmed case of an outside government arming the rebel fighters. Those fighters have been losing ground for days in the face of a steady westward advance by forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.

The Egyptian shipments are the strongest indication to date that some Arab countries are heeding Western calls to take a lead in efforts to intervene on behalf of pro-democracy rebels in their fight against Mr. Gadhafi in Libya. Washington and other Western countries have long voiced frustration with Arab states’ unwillingness to help resolve crises in their own region, even as they criticized Western powers for attempting to do so.

The shipments also follow an unusually robust diplomatic response from Arab states. There have been rare public calls for foreign military intervention in an Arab country, including a vote by the 23-member Arab League last week urging the U.N. to impose a no-fly zone over Libya.

SOS Hillary Clinton believes that the No-fly zone will require bombing. This has been indicated by some retired generals who have done similar actions in other UN actions like Bosnia.  Clinton is in Tunisia and has been traveling in the region.

“A no-fly zone requires certain actions taken to protect the planes and the pilots, including bombing targets like the Libyan defense systems,” Clinton said in Tunis, her last stop on a trip that also took her to Cairo and Paris.

In all her stops, Clinton’s done a mix of stressing the need for democracy in post-revolution Tunisia and Egypt, and pushing for international cooperation in responding to the crisis in Libya. On Thursday, her only full day in Tunisia, Clinton promised that the United States “will stand with you as you make the transition to democracy, prosperity and a better future.”

Democrats are finally pushing back on the Republican canard that Social Security is bankrupt.  Harry Reid also took on the falsehood that Social Security is some how related to the Federal Deficit.  It’s about time.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) appeared on MSNBC last night, where he strongly rejected the idea that Social Security cuts should be on the table during current budget talks. “I’ve said clearly and as many times as I can, leave Social Security alone. Social Security has not added a single penny, not a dime, a nickel, a dollar to the budget problems we have. Never has. And for the next 30 years, it won’t do that,” Reid said. “Two decades from now, I am willing to take a look at it. I am not willing to take a look at it now.”

House Republicans, meanwhile, have stated their intention to suggest “bold reforms” for Social Security in their 2012 budget, which House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) plans to release during the first week of April. At Politico’s “Playbook Breakfast” today, which Wonk Room attended, Ryan was asked about Reid’s position. Ryan said that Reid’s stance “just boggles my mind,” before later admitting that Social Security is “not a driver of our debt”

Politico reports that Republicans are trying to roll back financial reform.

Republicans clearly want to strike at the heart of banking reform with legislation attacking new regulations on derivatives, credit rating agencies and private equity firms. But their piecemeal approach suggests they are trying to do so without appearing to favor Wall Street over Main Street.

And for a party so vigilant on its messaging, the GOP doesn’t intend to swing the door wide-open for Democrats to go on the offensive in ways they couldn’t during the repeal debate over the far less popular health care law.

“There’s no question they didn’t like financial reform,” Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), one of the law’s namesakes and top Democrat on the committee said of Republicans. “But they’re more respectful of the public appeal of this and are going about this at the edges.”

Obama held a presser yesterday and announced that he had ordered a review of  safety at US nuclear facilities.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has conducted an “exhaustive study” of U.S. plants and they have been “declared safe for any number of extreme contingencies,” Obama said at the White House. Still, he said, a review should be conducted based on what is learned from the damage at the Japanese facility.

The president said the administration will keep the public informed about the nuclear crisis and sought to allay any health concerns in the U.S.

“We do not expect harmful levels of radiation to reach the United States,” including Hawaii, Alaska and territories in the Pacific, he said.

Obama’s remarks reinforced statements earlier today by NRC Chairman Gregory Jaczko that the government continually reviews safety and standards and will do so based on what is learned from the situation in Japan. There is no immediate need for special inspections of U.S. nuclear plants, he said.

Meanwhile, the EPA has proposed tougher air pollution standards for US power plants.

Newly proposed national standards for mercury, arsenic and other toxic air pollutants from power plants could prevent as many as 17,000 premature deaths and 11,000 heart attacks a year, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The proposed standards, released Wednesday by the EPA in response to a court deadline, could also prevent 120,000 cases of childhood asthma symptoms and 11,000 cases of acute bronchitis among children each year; avert more than 12,000 emergency room visits and hospital admissions annually; and lead to 850,000 fewer days of work missed due to health problems.

Under the proposal, many power plants would be required to install proven pollution control technologies to reduce harmful emissions of mercury, arsenic, chromium, nickel and acid gases, the EPA said.

Opposition leaders in Bahrain have been arrested following a crackdown on protests.

Several opposition leaders and activists have been arrested in Bahrain following a violent crackdown on anti-government protests in the Gulf kingdom.

State television said “leaders of the civil strife” had been arrested for communicating with foreign countries and inciting murder and destruction of property.

Among those arrested were Hassan Mushaima, who had returned last month from self-imposed exile in the UK after Bahraini authorities dropped charges against him, and Ibrahim Sharif, head of the Waad political society, a secular group comprising mostly Sunni members.

Also taken into custody early on Thursday was Abdul Jalil al-Singace, a leader of the Haq movement, who was jailed last August but was freed in late February as part of concessions by the Khalifa royal family to protesters.

Al Jazeera’s correspondent, reporting from the capital, Manama, said a crackdown on the opposition’s main voices was under way.

“Significant members of the opposition were arrested overnight, including some prominent activists. Soldiers broke into the houses of these figures early in the morning and made these arrests,” he said.

Later in the day, protesters ignored warnings to stay at home and gathered in Dair and Jidhaf just outside Manama.

What a world!

One last article from Politico on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the role she played in getting the world to take on Gadhafi.  Also, some more hints on her future plans.

Clinton has made similar “I’m not here forever” comments before – but it was the timing of her remarks to CNN on Wednesday that raised eyebrows, coming at a critical moment in her fierce internal battle to push President Barack Obama to join the fight to liberate Libya from Muammar Qadhafi.

Clinton’s position was vindicated early Thursday evening when the United Nations Security Council – at the urging of the United States – approved a resolution authorizing “all necessary measures” to protect Libyan civilians, including a no-fly zone. U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice told reporters that such a move could involve direct attacks on pro-Qadhafi forces now bearing down on the rebel stronghold of Benghazi in eastern Libya.

Clinton’s persistence in the anti-Qadhafi cause has been such a constant in the White House in recent days that Obama, according to reports, joked about Clinton lobbing rocks through his window during his remarks at Saturday night’s Gridiron dinner.

“Stay tuned,” said one Clinton friend when asked if the secretary would ultimately prevail.

Two Clinton friends, who speak with her regularly, told POLITICO she wasn’t trying to send any message to Obama with her interview with Wolf Blitzer Wednesday and she has no plans to leave earlier than the end of the president’s first term.

Whats on your reading and blogging list today?