From American Progress:
A new Pew Research Center poll finds that the majority of the American public believes that in the past five years, "they either haven't moved forward in life (25%) or have fallen backwards (31%). This is the most downbeat short-term assessment of personal progress in nearly half a century of polling" by the organization.
House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) is expected to announce today that conservatives will drop their push to pass an update to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act in order to shift their focus to the economy. This strategy was detailed in the inaugural edition of the "Freedom File" e-mail -- "a monthly memo to GOP activists -- from Boehner's political action committee, Freedom Project."
Tribunals for six detainees at Guantanamo Bay charged with war crimes related to the Sept. 11 attacks have "hit a snag" as military defense lawyers are "in short supply." In the two months since the charges were announced, "not one of the six detainees has met his military lawyer." Now, "a growing consensus among lawyers" believes that few of the detainees' "cases are likely to actually come to trial before the end of the Bush administration."
"Dozens of Afghan men who were previously held by the United States at Bagram Air Base and Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, are now being tried here in secretive Afghan criminal proceedings based mainly on allegations forwarded by the American military." Human rights investigators report that the trials can last anywhere from 10 minutes to a couple of hours and can result in prison sentences of up to 20 years.
Testifying to the House yesterday, Amb. Ryan Crocker said "his embassy was still preparing a report that would measure progress toward the 18 benchmarks that Congress set last year to help assess progress on the ground" in Iraq. However, a "senior administration official" said "the administration had abandoned the benchmarks as a strict standard of progress because establishing a secure Iraq would also depend on factors other than political and military progress."
"[B]y hedging on whether he will support" the 21st Century GI Bill, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) "is casting doubt on his own commitment to the newest generation of American heroes," write Gen. Wesley Clark and Jon Soltz, chair of VoteVets.org, in an LA Times op-ed today. "[J]ust because our service members are selfless does not mean they deserve to be left to fend for themselves as they return home and try to make a better life."
"Americans are cutting back on driving as they feel the pinch from high oil prices and a soft economy," and demand for gas "has trailed year-earlier levels over the past 12 weeks, the longest period of sustained lower demand since 1991." But with oil finishing at $110.87 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange yesterday "after the federal government reported a sharp drop in crude inventories," the price of gasoline is still continuing to rise.
The Senate is debating a rule pertaining to children's health insurance that states that lower-income children should get coverage before those in families that earn more. "This change could force states to drop tens of thousands of children from the program in August."
And finally: Sens. Hillary Clinton (D-NY), John McCain (R-AZ), and Barack Obama (D-IL) all "made taped appeals for charity on a special edition of 'American Idol' on Wednesday night." Their spots, however, were cut because producers "evidently felt that the candidates didn't have the same cachet" as celebrities. However, the event -- which "went too long" -- did feature Fergie, Bono, Brad Pitt, Mariah Carey, and Miley Cyrus. The candidates' taped appearances are expected to air tonight.