The G8 agree on a goal of halving greenhouse-gas emissions by 2050.

The G8 agree on a goal of halving greenhouse-gas emissions by 2050.

The G8 agree on a goal of halving greenhouse-gas emissions by 2050.

A summary of what's in the major U.S. newspapers.
July 9 2008 6:24 AM

Hot Air Rises

The Washington Postleads with the Group of Eight leading industrialized nations agreeing on a goal of halving greenhouse-gas emissions by 2050. It marked the first time President Bush has backed a plan that calls for a specific goal to combat global warming. The declaration made it clear that developing nations must also commit to "meaningful" cuts, a position the White House has long advocated. Developing countries and environmentalists were quick to criticize the declaration as essentially meaningless because its language was too vague. The Wall Street Journal leads its world-wide newsbox with, and the WP fronts, claims by a former Environmental Protection Agency official that Vice President Cheney's office sought deletions to a federal official's prepared testimony about health threats posed by global warming.

The New York Timesleads with Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke indicating that the current economic turmoil could extend well into 2009 as he outlined a series of major changes the central bank will consider in the coming months to ease the pain. USA Today leads with, and everyone covers, a new report by congressional investigators that found that Medicare paid as much as $92 million over a period of seven years for fraudulent claims that were submitted under the names of dead doctors. Although the problem had been identified in 2001, the government failed to institute proper measures to make sure it didn't happen again. "These scam artists have treated Medicare like an ATM machine," Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., said. The Los Angeles Timesdevotes its top nonlocal spot to a look at how John McCain is trying to woo Latinos by taking the "risky step" of touting his work for immigration reform.

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The group of developing countries that was also meeting in Japan agreed that combating global warming is important but failed to endorse the target that was put forward by the Group of Eight. This means that negotiations will have to continue as leaders hope to reach a U.N.-sponsored binding agreement by the end of 2009. Critics said the declaration doesn't mean much because the leaders failed to set a midterm goal for reducing greenhouse gases and also didn't make clear whether the reductions would be measured from  current levels or would take up a 1990 baseline, as the Europeans would prefer. South Africa's environmental minister said the Group of Eight had done nothing except issue an "empty slogan" and take up "the lowest common denominator" as its goal. Even though the declaration was seen as a sign of how much Bush has changed on the issue since he first came into office, everyone agrees that any meaningful commitment will have to wait for the next president.

While Bush was discussing global warming with world leaders, former EPA deputy associate administrator Jason Burnett stood with Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., at a news conference where she criticized the White House's efforts to hide the consequences of global warming. "History will judge this Bush administration harshly," Boxer said. Burnett, a longtime contributor to the Democratic Party, wrote in a letter that Cheney's office and the White House Council on Environmental Quality "were seeking deletions" to congressional testimony prepared by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Specifically, the White House wanted "to remove … any discussion of the human health consequences of climate change." The fact that the testimony had been changed before it was delivered had already been widely reported.

The Fed will be releasing new policies next week that will prohibit some of the lending practices that led to the current mortgage crisis. In addition, Bernanke said the Fed might extend its unprecedented lending program to the largest investment banks into next year. In order to prevent future instability, the Fed's chairman also urged lawmakers to increase the central bank's regulatory powers, but it's unlikely that Congress will have time to pass such legislation before next year. Investors reacted positively to Bernanke's words and, helped along by the second straight day of decreasing crude oil prices, pushed stocks higher.

Although McCain spent much of the primary campaign assuring Republicans that his priority in immigration policy would center on securing the border with Mexico, he's now singing a different tune. Mindful of the growing importance of the Latino vote in swing states, as well as the fact that Barack Obama has a strong lead with that group of voters, McCain is now espousing "a message that gives equal weight to helping employers and immigrant workers and their families," says the LAT. In new ads, McCain says that dealing with the needs of immigrants is "as important" as securing the border. Although he never comes out and says he wants to create a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants, "his subtle language matches that of legalization advocates," notes the LAT.

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McCain wasn't alone in trying to appeal to Latino voters yesterday. ("Como se dice 'pander' en Español?" quips the Post's Dana Milbank.) Obama also addressed Latino voters yesterday and said they shouldn't believe the words coming out of McCain's mouth. "We need a president who isn't going to walk away from something as important as comprehensive reform when it becomes politically unpopular," Obama said.

In other campaign news, the NYT fronts a look at how Obama's top donors haven't been eager to answer the presumptive nominee's call to help Sen. Hillary Clinton pay off her debt. So far, they've given less than $100,000, which one Clinton official described as "a paltry sum." The former rivals will hold their first joint fundraisers this week, which will benefit Obama's campaign, but Clinton donors said they hope his supporters will be more willing to part with their money after the events. Still, Clinton supporters say they can't understand why Obama has refused to reach out to his entire list of donors for help, even if it's with small dollar mounts. All this is helping to increase the level of bitterness as some Clinton supporters are convinced Obama's campaign really isn't that interested in helping the former first lady.

In a front-page piece, the WP notes that the U.S. superiority in all things related to space travel may be slowly but surely coming to an end. "We've been living off the fruit of that purchase for 40 years and have not ... chosen to invest at a level that would preserve that commanding lead," NASA administrator Michael Griffin said. Meanwhile, other countries, including China and India, are investing and making big strides in their space technology.

No extra credit for telling the truth. Talk about embarrassing. The White House had to profusely apologize to Silvio Berlusconi yesterday after it handed out a biography of the Italian prime minister that described him as "a political dilettante who gained high office only through use of his considerable influence on the national media." The WP's Al Kamen notes that the administration even managed to offend "all of Italy" by describing Berlusconi as "one of the most controversial leaders in the history of a country known for governmental corruption and vice." How did this happen? A cut-and-paste problem, of course. Turns out the bio was copied directly from a Web site and, apparently, the White House doesn't proofread.