Lt. General Russel L. Honoré first noticed something was deeply wrong in his home state of Louisiana in September 2005, a few weeks after Hurricane Katrina slammed the Gulf Coast. Honoré, commander of the military's disaster response operation, was choppering back to his floating headquarters aboard the USS Bataan when he saw a ribbon of rainbow on the water beneath him. "What in the heck is that?" he recalls asking the pilot. "He said, 'Those are old oil wells, General—you see the derricks knocked down.'" Honoré was staring down at one of the storm's little-noticed consequences—millions of gallons of oil spilled into the state's fragile coastal wetlands. "And my heart almost stopped."
As he recounts the story one Saturday morning outside a coffee shop near his home in Baton Rouge, Honoré's eyes widen incredulously. "Come to find out later, many of those oil wells were actually abandoned," he explains. "And even today—listen to me—the derricks are still on the ground. They've never been picked up."
In the past couple of years, the 67-year-old Army lifer has undergone an almost religious awakening, throwing himself into one of the largest environmental combat zones in the United States. Louisiana has given oil and gas companies carte blanche to carve up its southern coast. Things aren't much better on dry land, where some of the state's poorest residents live in the shadow of some of the country's largest polluters. In response, Honoré has formed the Green Army, an organization that's advocated for some of the state's most threatened communities while clashing with the petrochemical lobby and its champion in Baton Rouge, Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal. Now he might be aiming for something even bigger—the governor's mansion.
The general was born during a hurricane in 1947, on his family's subsistence farm in Pointe Coupee Parish. Honoré, who is African American and identifies as Creole, attended colored schools, paid his way through college, and enlisted in the Army in 1971 over his parents' protests. By 2004, he'd become a three-star general in charge of the First Army and responsible for the deployment of National Guard divisions heading to Iraq. When Katrina hit, his Louisiana roots and local patois made him a natural pick to head Joint Task Force Katrina. Amid the flailing of FEMA and local authorities, Honoré earned respect as a hard-ass—"a black John Wayne dude," as then-New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin put it. He eased the fears of New Orleans' black residents by ordering his soldiers to "put those damn weapons down" and ended his television interviews by shouting, "Over!" Honoré, a Times-Picayune reporter wrote, was a "salty-mouthed, cigar-chompin' guardian angel in camouflage."
Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D-Va.) is recovering nicely after falling off a horse while on vacation in Tanzania in December. The Clinton confidante broke seven ribs in the fall and underwent an operation on Monday to drain fluid from his chest. Fortunately for McAuliffe, he's in good company—politicians have had trouble holding onto their horses since at least the time of Herodotus. A brief history:
2014: At a holiday parade in Tulsa, Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) loses control of his horse, Speck, and crashes into a parked minivan with "Merry Christmas" written on the side.
2014: Dressed in colonial garb for a tourism video, Geelong, Australia mayor Darryn Lyons falls off his horse. His peroxide mohawk is unharmed.
2013: Turkmenistan president Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov (pronounced just like it's spelled) shuts down his nation's internet after a viral YouTube video circulates showing him falling off his horse during a race.
2011: Former Alabama supreme court chief justice Roy Moore breaks several bones after falling off his horse. Moore recovers and triumphantly rides his horse to the polls the next year to vote for himself.
2010: Gov. Jim Gibbons (R-Nev.) needs two ten-inch bolts to repair a broken pelvis after falling from his horse at a ranch.
2004: Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-Mont.) falls off a horse during a congressional delegation to Kazakhstan after downing six shots of vodka. Montana Democrats circulate an unsubstantiated rumor that Rehberg consumed a total of 20 shots of vodka and serenaded his hosts by chanting "meep meep" like a Conehead.
2003: Turkish prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan falls off an Arabian horse at an Istanbul park, after two previous attempts to hop on were unsuccessful. "The important point is to be able to stand up after falling down," he says.
1908: President Theodore Roosevelt, a noted outdoorsman, is thrown off his mount while fording Washington, DC's Rock Creek. He falls 10 feet but lands beside the horse, escaping further injury.
1847: Future president Franklin Pierce is thrown from his horse during battle outside Mexico City. Pierce's leg is crushed after his horse falls on him, and he passes out, for which his subordinates derisively nickname him "Fainting Frank."
Is Mitt Romney becoming a climate change crusader?
During his 2012 presidential bid, Romney was dismissive about Democratic efforts to combat the effects of climate change, and he pushed for an expanded commitment to fossil fuels. But in a speech in California on Monday, Romney, who is considering a third run for president in 2016, signaled a shift on the issue. According to the Palm Springs Desert Sun, the former Massachusetts governor "said that while he hopes the skeptics about global climate change are right, he believes it's real and a major problem," and he lamented that Washington had done "almost nothing" to stop it.
Each year, the opposition party taps a member to deliver a response to the president's State of the Union address. For Tuesday night's speech—President Barack Obama's sixth—Republicans have awarded this duty to Iowa freshman Sen. Joni Ernst, who rose to prominence last spring when she released a campaign ad about castrating a pig.
The GOP has also announced it will be offering a Spanish-language rebuttal, which will be delivered tonight by freshman Florida Rep. Carlos Curbelo, a young conservative from a diverse Miami congressional district. But there's a wrinkle. According to a press release from the House Republicans, Curbelo will not be sharing his own thoughts and words with the public. Instead, he will only be reading a Spanish translation of Ernst's speech.
Curbelo's office confirmed that he will not be delivering his own remarks.
By the way, Ernst has endorsed English as a national language and once sued Iowa's secretary of state for offering voting forms in languages other than English. Her office did not respond to requests for comment.
Curbelo has broken with his own party on immigration to support a path to citizenship for undocumented residents. Ernst has repeatedly expressed opposition to "amnesty."
Update: Following the publication of this article, House Republicans changed their tune. Read more here.
Politics is a family business for potential Republican presidential candidate and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee. Over the last six years, the Fox News host's political action committee, which was created to raise money for GOP candidates, has paid nearly $400,000 to members of Huckabee's extended family, while spending just a fraction of its multimillion-dollar fundraising haul on the Republican contenders.
Huck PAC, which Huckabee launched in 2008 after dropping out of the Republican presidential race, "is committed to electing conservatives across the nation at all levels of government," according to a statement on its website. But according to review of Federal Election Commission records, a significant portion of the money the PAC has collected has gone into the salaries of family members or the coffers of direct-mail fundraising firms.