While Washington was consumed with the debt ceiling fight, the world kept on spinning and news kept happening. Here, some big stories you might have missed.
• Texas Gov. Rick Perry is complicating Mitt Romney’s frontrunner bid for the GOP presidential nod – and that’s without having formally declared his candidacy. A new Rasmussen poll of Republican voters has Romney in the lead at 22 percent, but Perry within striking distance at 18. Perry poses a big challenge to both Romney and Michele Bachmann since he’s a big hit with Bachmann’s Tea Party and religious conservative base and with more establishment, business Republicans, impressed by his jobs record as governor. [Commentary]
• The Syrian government came down hard on pro-democracy protesters Sunday, sending tanks into the central city of Hama. Up to 80 civilians were reported killed. President Obama condemned the crackdown, but there’s little chance desire Western powers will mount a Libya-style intervention. Arab leaders were largely silent about the massacre. “The world is watching the slaughterhouse in Syria. Shame on us,” Egyptian presidential candidate Mohamed ElBaradei proclaimed via Twitter on Sunday. “The peace of God be upon Syria’s martyrs. Shame on every Arab and every human being.” [Reuters]
• Last Thursday’s killing of Libyan rebel commander Abdel Fattah Younes has worsened tensions within the anti-Gaddafi opposition. Rebel forces “now risk breaking down into increasingly deadly jockeying between rival factions,” TIME reports “and leaving Gaddafi with a relatively free hand to reclaim control of Libya.” [TIME]
• President Obama announced a historic agreement with automakers late last week to increase fuel economy to 54.5 miles per gallon for cars and light-duty trucks by 2025. That could save a total of around $1.7 trillion savings in fuel costs – $8,000 per vehicle – and reduce the nation’s fuel consumption by 40 percent, which means 23 billion gallons annually. The environmental blog Treehugger called the deal “a bright spot in a dark, stormy season for environmental policy.”[Treehugger]
• Famine in the Horn of Africa may soon engulf as many as six more regions of Somalia, the U.N. humanitarian aid chief said on Monday. The U.N. declared a famine in two regions of southern Somalia, where 3.7 million people are going hungry, on July 20, but now some “12.4 million people in Kenya, Ethiopia, Somalia and Djibouti are in dire need of help and the situation is getting worse,” Valerie Amos told reporters. Tens of thousands of Somalis have already died. [Reuters]