Shorter Question Everything
I’ll start off with this: As close as you’ll ever get, Romney. Romney has lunch with Obama at the White House
Despite the fighting, there is some movement on the Obama second term and, true to form, it looks as though there’s some hard pressing to get done the things that he couldn’t do in the first term. He’s got better leverage now, and he doesn’t have to worry about re-election. Here’s hoping for success. Guantanamo was one of the biggies of the first term, but the right wing fought it at every step. Let’s hope this gets done.
• The Department of Defense and the Department of Justice together have more than enough prison space within the United States to safely and securely house the remaining 166 prisoners currently held in Guantanamo Bay, according to a new report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO). The report (PDF), commissioned by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), details a clear road map to accomplishing President Barack Obama’s longtime goal of shuttering the controversial military facility. As a candidate for president, then-Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) vowed to shutter the facility and restore confidence that the U.S. courts can handle terrorism suspects. However, despite Attorney General Eric Holder’s efforts to try terrorism suspects in the U.S., he was blocked by congressional Republicans who’ve sought to make the prison impossible to close. “To say that high-risk detainees cannot be held securely in a maximum security prison is just plain wrong,” Feinstein added. “The United States already holds 373 individuals convicted of terrorism in 98 facilitates across the country. As far as I know, there hasn’t been a single security problem reported in any of these cases. This fact outweighs not only the high cost of maintaining Guantanamo—which costs more than $114 million a year—but also provides the same degree of security without the criticism of operating a military prison in an isolated location.”
• Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) introduced an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would protect American citizens from being indefinitely detained. The amendment, which is cosponsored by several other Republican and Democratic senators, uses essentially the same language as the Due Process Guarantee Act, which Feinstein and Lee introduced last year. The language of the amendment assures that no authorization to use military force, war declaration, or any similar authority would allow an American apprehended in the United States to be held without charge or trial.
• After over a decade of fighting in Afghanistan, the Senate voted Thursday for an accelerated withdrawal of U.S. forces. Senate Democrats along with a dozen Republicans backed the measure that would eliminate the possibility of a prolonged war past 2014.
• The United States government has temporarily banned the British oil company BP from new federal contracts, citing the company’s “lack of business integrity.”
• A U.S. judge has delayed sentencing for Jose Padilla, allowing the convicted terror plotter to have visits from his family for the first time in years. Padilla had been held in the federal “Supermax” prison in Florence, Colo., but was recently transferred to a federal detention center in Miami to confer with counsel on the resentencing — which his lawyer, Michael Caruso, succeeded in delaying by about eight weeks at a hearing Wednesday.
• Former New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson joined PoliticsNation to defend embattled Ambassador Susan Rice. He’s uniquely qualified to address Ambassador Rice’s early comments on the Benghazi attacks, since he also served as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations from 1997 to 1998. He took issue with the idea that Rice’s appearance on news shows was deliberately misleading. In his own time as U.N. ambassador, he said, “We would get whenever we’d go on a news show… an intelligence briefing or a piece of paper that gave you the guidance that you had an on event that happened overseas. Susan was following that guidance, and she did it very well.” Richardson addressed the criticism that Rice’s response to the Benghazi attack was similar to her role in the aftermath of the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Africa, when she was head of the State Department’s Africa region. He had been serving in Rice’s current job at the time of those attacks. He says there would be nothing for her to explain about those attacks, saying she was “an excellent policymaker” but was “not in charge of embassy security.” He said, “To suggest that Susan had a role in that is just not appropriate. It’s not wise.”
• On Wednesday, Sen. Susan Collins trotted out the latest Republican excuse for opposing Susan Rice as Secretary of State: The 1998 embassy bombings in Africa, which occurred while Rice was the State Department’s Africa point person. “She had to be aware of the general threat assessment and of the ambassadors’ request for more security,” Collins said of Rice. As we noted, Collins was much less troubled by Condoleezza Rice’s apparent failure to respond to a warnings that al Qaida was looking to attack the U.S.—a failure that led to a far more devastating terrorist attack on 9/11. But it turns out the hypocrisy goes even further. Back in 2009, when Susan Rice was being confirmed as U.S. Ambassador the the U.N., Collins put out a press release highlighting Rice’s ties to Maine, the senator’s own state. Collins praised her as a “remarkable woman,” adding: “I first met her when we both participated in seminars sponsored by the Aspen Strategy Group. I was so impressed with her brilliance and nuanced insights as we discussed foreign policy challenges.”
• McCain Gets Petty On Susan Rice Attacks: Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said on Wednesday that it is “meaningless” that al-Qaeda’s core leadership — including presumably, Osama bin Laden — has been wiped out over the last four years. Why would McCain make such a claim? Probably because U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice recently said the opposite. “MCCAIN: She said, well, maybe I should have said “core,” that we have decimated core Al Qaeda. Well, first of all, that’s a directly — vastly different from what she actually said. And number two, is that really is kind of meaningless to take out core Al Qaeda.”
• There is still no official country of Palestine. But the United Nations took a small step in that direction on Thursday. The U.N. General Assembly approved a request by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas for recognition of Palestine as a non-member observer state. Hamas, the radical Palestinian group, backed the request by Abbas’s more moderate Fatah group. President Abbas told the assembly that the vote was the “last chance to save the two-state solution” in the Mideast. After the General Assembly voted, a Palestinian flag was unfurled. Germany and the United States, along with Israel, voted against Abbas’ request.
• Press TV reports that Canada’s prime minister had personally threatened the acting Palestinian Authority chief over the bid for an upgraded status at the UN, which the United Nations General Assembly voted for on Thursday. Reporters say Harper’s threat was linked to some $300-billion aid spread over five years starting in 2008, which by now the Palestinian Authority would have already received the majority of.
• The United Nations general assembly voted overwhelmingly on Thursday to recognise Palestine as a state, in the face of opposition from Israel and the US. The 193-member assembly voted 138 in favour of the plan, with only nine against and 41 abstentions. The scale of the defeat represented a strong and public repudiation for Israel and the US, who find themselves out of step with the rest of the world.
• This morning, an entire country was effectively cut off from the Internet. Web traffic in and out of Syria dropped to zero abruptly, a drastic development more than a year into a conflict that has claimed tens of thousands of lives. Cellphone service also appears to be partially down, according to the BBC, and there are reports that the Damascus airport has been largely shut down, as well.
• The Internet was down across Syria Friday and the Damascus airport was shut as rebel and regime troops battled and other rebel forces moved toward the capital. Landline and cellphone networks were also crippled in parts of the country, especially where fighting was fiercest, anti-regime activists said, warning the cutoff might mean authorities were planning to escalate their crackdown against the country’s raging uprising.
• Court documents show cross-country complaints about misleading election calls, including 20 in B.C. The documents are the first concrete evidence of a widespread Elections Canada investigation into vote suppressions beyond the riding of Guelph. They detail complaints from voters in 56 separate ridings across the country: 20 in B.C., nine in Alberta, five in Manitoba, two in Ontario and 20 in Quebec.
• Critics ask why Canada learned about spy from U.S. RCMP tipped off about convicted Sub-Lt. Jeffrey Delisle by FBI. The news that Sub-Lt Jeffrey Delisle, the Canadian naval officer who pleaded guilty to spying in October, could have been caught earlier — as information from seach warrants obtained by CBC suggests — prompted anger from opposition parties on Parliament Hill on Thursday. Opposition critics said the revelation that it was the FBI that tipped off the RCMP to suspicions about Delisle, as well as the news that Delisle’s security clearance had expired, was disturbing and a “significant breach of security.” Delisle was arrested January 2012 for downloading highly classified documents onto a USB key and passing the information to Russia over a five-year period. He had been working at HMCS Trinity, a top secret naval intelligence facility in Halifax.
Religion – Bad and Good
• Pastafarians on Wednesday urged Chester County commissioners in Pennsylvania to include the Flying Spaghetti Monster in the holiday display at the county’s courthouse.