Hottest year on record for U.S.
WASHINGTON (AP) — America set an off-the-charts heat record in 2012.
A brutal combination of a widespread drought and a mostly absent winter pushed the average annual U.S. temperature last year up to 55.32 degrees Fahrenheit, the government announced Tuesday. That’s a full degree warmer than the old record set in 1998.
Breaking temperature records by an entire degree is unprecedented, scientists say. Normally, records are broken by a tenth of a degree or so.
“It was off the chart,” said Deke Arndt, head of climate monitoring at the National Climatic Data Center in Asheville, N.C., which calculated the temperature records.
Last year, he said, will go down as “a huge exclamation point at the end of a couple decades of warming.”
The data center’s figures for the entire world won’t come out until next week, but through the first 11 months of 2012, the world was on pace to have its eighth warmest year on record.
Scientists say the U.S. heat is part global warming in action and natural weather variations. The drought that struck almost two-thirds of the nation and a La Nina weather event helped push temperatures higher, along with climate change from man-made greenhouse gas emissions, said Katharine Hayhoe, director of the Climate Science Center at Texas Tech University. She said temperature increases are happening faster than scientists predicted.
Delay sought on CIA nomination
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama’s choice of John Brennan to be the next CIA director hit a snag Tuesday as a Republican senator threatened to delay the nomination until the Obama administration provides answers on the deadly assault in Libya that killed the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, whose opposition helped scuttle U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice’s hopes of becoming secretary of state, said the Senate should not confirm any Obama nominee for the nation’s top spy post until the administration elaborates on the attack on the diplomatic mission in Benghazi.
“My support for a delay in confirmation is not directed at Mr. Brennan, but is an unfortunate, yet necessary, action to get information from this administration,” the South Carolina senator said in a statement. “I have tried — repeatedly — to get information on Benghazi, but my requests have been repeatedly ignored.”
He added that the administration’s “stonewalling on Benghazi” must end. Graham did not explicitly say he would put a “hold” on Brennan’s nomination, and his office declined further comment. However, his statement signaled that he would try to slow the nomination.
The White House dismissed the politicization of the issue and pressed for the Senate to act quickly and deliberately on Brennan’s nomination.
$1M gifts sought for inauguration
WASHINGTON (AP) — Planners of President Barack Obama’s second inauguration are making an unprecedented solicitation for high-dollar contributions to help pay for the celebration.
They’re asking for donations of up to $1 million to help fund the events surrounding the inaugural on Jan. 21. Such donation packages, which come with special access, are a far cry from the policy of Obama’s first inauguration to accept contributions up to only $50,000 from individuals.
The pressure is high to pay for the festivities after donors already contributed to the most expensive campaign in U.S. history. More than 400 individuals and a handful of corporations have so far contributed $200 or more to the inaugural committee. But the committee won’t be listing how much they’ve given until weeks after the event, another about-face from 2009.