The Edge is National Journal's daily look at today in Washington -- and what's coming next. The email features analysis from NJ's top correspondents, the biggest stories of the day -- and always a few surprises. To subscribe, click here.
Injecting Facts into an Emotional Debate
Did you know that the two safest U.S. cities over 500,000 are El Paso and San Diego—both on the Mexican border? That deportations of illegal immigrants have nearly doubled in the last decade? That Mexico's growing gross domestic product is expected to overtake that of France, Germany, and the United Kingdom by 2050? That we export twice as much to Mexico as to China? Mexicans have money! They buy our stuff! It's not just a country of violent drug cartels!
These were some of the facts presented today by Simon Rosenberg, president of the progressive NDN think tank, at his fourth and final summer seminar on immigration reform. The goal is what he calls "WTF" awakenings. "We debunk so many myths," he told me. Even, on occasion, to members of Congress.
Rosenberg says he can already see the shape of a year-end, bipartisan immigration law. "The Senate and the House are not that far apart," he says. "We are so much closer to a deal than we have ever been." He admits his optimism makes him a minority, but he's pressing on. Seminars resume this fall.
ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN PEACE TALKS TO RESUME WEDNESDAY. Israeli and Palestinian negotiators are set to resume long-stalled peace talks in Jerusalem next week, the State Department announced today. "Negotiations between the Israelis and Palestinians will be resuming August 14 in Jerusalem and will be followed by a meeting in Jericho (in the West Bank)," department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said. The breakthrough comes after an intense round of shuttle diplomacy last month by Secretary of State John Kerry that culminated in a preliminary meeting between the two sides in Washington on July 30. U.S. envoys Martin Indyk and Frank Lowenstein will attend the meetings, Psaki said, adding, "Secretary Kerry does not expect to make any announcements in the aftermath of this round of talks." Read more
DRONE STRIKES KILL 9 AL-QAIDA MILITANTS IN YEMEN. Two suspected U.S. drone attacks killed nine alleged al-Qaida militants today in Yemen, the Associated Press reports. The two hits, announced by a Yemeni military official, mark the sixth and seventh strikes since July 27, for 31 total kills of suspected militants in Yemen, which remains on a high alert for terrorism. Yemeni officials also attempted to distance themselves late Wednesday from claims made earlier in the day that security forces had foiled several al-Qaida terror plots, while some foreign partners and security analysts are questioning whether the Obama administration is overreacting to threats from an ostensibly crippled al-Qaida network. Read more
- Al-Qaida's Yemeni branch is attempting to boost its presence in an eastern province of the country—the ancestral homeland of Osama bin Laden—despite the recent onslaught of drone strikes, The Washington Post reports. Read more
NSA REPORTEDLY SCANNING CONTENT OF MESSAGES TO AND FROM U.S. The National Security Agency is searching e-mail and text communications that enter and exit the United States in an effort to find people who mention information about foreign targets, The New York Times reports. The scans, described by unnamed intelligence officials, are broader than those previously acknowledged by the government—they include correspondence that merely mentions information about foreigners being watched overseas and not, as previously thought, only direct communications with them. "NSA collects only what it is explicitly authorized to collect," an agency spokeswoman told The Times. "Moreover, the agency's activities are deployed only in response to requirements for information to protect the country and its interests." Read more
JOBLESS BENEFITS CLAIMS FALL TO PRERECESSION LEVELS. A four-week average of new claims for state jobless benefits dropped last week to its lowest level since before the Great Recession, Reuters reports. The Labor Department said today that the average of claims fell to 335,500, a number last seen in November 2007, signifying that a long streak of layoffs may finally be ending. But economists once again cautioned that this small break in the clouds doesn't mean that nothing but sunny skies are ahead, and said employers are still hiring at a laggard pace. "The overall economy and the labor market are improving at a moderate pace," said Lindsey Piegza, chief economist at brokerage firm Sterne Agee & Leach in Chicago. Read more
FORT HOOD TRIAL RESUMES WITH HASAN STILL ACTING PRO SE. Maj. Nadal Malik Hasan's military tribunal resumed today after the judge denied a request by his standby attorneys to either be removed from the case or be allowed to take over the defense, the Associated Press reports. The judge ruled that Hasan, who is on trial for the 2009 shooting rampage at Fort Hood Army base that killed 13 and wounded 32, will be able to continue to defend himself, refuting claims from his standby lawyers that he was intentionally trying to ensure he receives the death penalty. Hasan told the jury on Tuesday that "the evidence will clearly show that I am the shooter." The defense attorneys said they will appeal to a higher court. Read more
DOJ USING NEW APPROACH TO TARGET BANKS. The Justice Department is broadening its investigation of banks by targeting "questionable financial ventures" such as online payday lenders, The Wall Street Journal reports. The move is a change in strategy, The Journal notes, from investigating individual firms to scrutinizing "the infrastructure that enables companies to withdraw money from people's bank accounts." In addition, regulators want to reign in phony offerings that promise to erase debt or supply lucrative work-from-home jobs. "We are changing the structures within the financial system that allow all kinds of fraudulent merchants to operate," a Justice Department official said, with the intent of "choking them off from the very air they need to survive." Read more
MEET THE CONGRESSMAN WHO COSPONSORED 435 BILLS. When it comes to signing onto legislation as cosponsors in Congress, liberals are more liberal with their pens, National Journal's Billy House reports. Library of Congress records show wide disparities in how much legislation lawmakers choose to cosponsor. Some lawmakers have added their signatures to hundreds of their colleagues' bills and amendments through the first seven months of this session, a National Journal Daily review has found. Others have been far stingier. The top 10 cosigners in the House have each topped the 300-bill mark, with Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., leading the pack at 435. Just one of them—Rep. Walter Jones of North Carolina (310)—is a Republican. Read more
GUTIERREZ ADVOCATES FOR IMMIGRATION REFORM; IN TWO LANGUAGES. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill., is frequently featured on Spanish-language newscasts on stations such as Univision and Telemundo, earning him rock-star status among many in the Hispanic community, The Washington Post reports. The bilingual Gutierrez has made immigration reform a central issue in his politics since first winning his seat in 1990, and he often invites Republicans—unsuccessfully—to tour their districts with him to raise awareness for the issue. Gutierrez says that the comprehensive immigration bill that came out of the Senate could pass the House based on private conversations he has had with GOP members in the lower chamber. Read more
- Immigration-reform activists aren't supposed to talk publicly about a "Plan B," but as August wears on and there is no clear sense of what the House will do with the issue, some are starting to speak out, National Journal's Fawn Johnson writes. Read more
REBELS CLAIM TO HIT ASSAD MOTORCADE IN DAMASCUS. At least two Syrian opposition groups claim to have hit President Bashar Assad's motorcade this morning, although Syria's information minister dismissed the rebels' claims as "rumors," and two opposition leaders said the route but not the motorcade was hit, the Associated Press reports. Syrians who live in the Malki district of Damascus, where Assad's residence was located before the conflict began, said that there were rocket and mortar strikes in the area. Meanwhile, Assad appeared on state television alongside Syria's grand mufti at a prayer service to mark the beginning of the three-day holiday of Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of fasting for the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. Read more
SNOWDEN'S FATHER: PUTIN NOT GOING TO 'CAVE' TO U.S. PRESSURE. Lon Snowden, the father of former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden, said Wednesday that Russian President Vladimir Putin will not "cave" to pressure from President Obama to rescind the younger Snowden's temporary asylum, Reuters reports. Lon Snowden spoke out a day after Obama decided to cancel a planned September summit meeting in Moscow with Putin. "These games of 'Well, I'm not going to go to this meeting,' ... I do not believe that President Vladimir Putin will cave to that," the elder Snowden said. Putin, meanwhile, sent a telegram to former President George W. Bush today wishing him well after his heart surgery earlier this week. Read more
- China couldn't resist weighing in on the U.S.-Russia spat, declaring through an unsigned editorial in its state-run Global Times that "Russia has impressed the world, which views the Kremlin as the 'winner' and the White House as the 'loser,'" Defense One reports. Read more
U.S., RUSSIAN OFFICIALS MEETING IN WASHINGTON. Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel will hold a meeting in Washington with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.
FEMINISM IN THE MUSLIM WORLD. The Women's Foreign Policy Group will hold a book discussion on Islamic Feminism: Politics and Paradoxes in Kuwait and the Region with author Alessandra Gonzalez at noon at 1615 M Street NW.
PULLING A GATSBY? The Atlantic's Alexis Madrigal went on a hunt for a plaque that allegedly marks the site where Jack Kerouac and William Burroughs got into a fight over the Oxford comma. The altercation "is memorialized in Kerouac's 'Doctor Sax,' " according to the plaque. As it turns out, the story is too good to be true. The fight supposedly happened in 1968; Kerouac, however, wrote his novel in 1959. The sign sits in an office at Mill #5 in Lowell, Mass. Developers Constantine Valhouli and Jim Lichoulas III had it and plaques for other fictional events created as part of the redevelopment of the former textile mill. But for many people, Madrigal writes, "the fiction about this space in the world became far better known than any real historical information about Appleton's mill." Read more
- @chucktodd: @TheRickWilson @ZekeJMiller you know that like Burgundy, Putin has named his biceps, right? Drago and Trotsky?
- @HotlineSteve: MSNBC chyron: "NH Poll Sets Stage for 2016 Primaries." Does it, really? A poll conducted in July 2013?
- @politicalinsidr: Jackie Gingrich, first wife of former U.S. House speaker, dies. #gagop #gadems #gapol shar.es/y6XnL
- @BYT: WELCOME TO DC BEER WEEK. Your ultimate guide: http://ow.ly/nKa6s @StarrRestaurant @DelCampoDC @NelliesDC @bighuntdc @room11dc @Masa14DC
- @RobGeorge: Needs ONE sympathetic character RT @chucktodd: To any entertainment folks looking for a compelling political mini-series: try John Edwards
- @sam_baker: No. RT @ezraklein: Is pot the new gay marriage? wapo.st/1cNsvYe
- @MrT: I'm gonna start my own version of Twitter called JibberJabber. Character limit: 0
- @JimAcostaCNN: Carney joked today Obama will announce Fed chmn pick in Martha's Vineyard. But that's where he nominated Bernanke to 2nd term in 09.
TODAY'S PHOTO GALLERY
'SILVER FIRE' RAGES ON IN CALIFORNIA. Firefighters in Southern California continue to battle the "Silver Fire," a wildfire that has burned thousands of acres and destroyed numerous homes. Time has compiled photographs of the devastation, as well as the efforts of officials to contain the damage. See it here