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US to stay in Afghanistan until 2024

US to stay in Afghanistan until 2024

Spencer Ackerman

US-Afghan security deal.

Bilateral security deal ensures that President Obama will pass off the Afghanistan war and his new war in Iraq and Syria to his successor.

Long awaited and much desired by an anxious US military, the deal guarantees that US and Nato troops will not have to withdraw by year’s end, and permits their stay “until the end of 2024 and beyond.”

The entry into force of the deal ensures that Barack Obama, elected president in 2008 on a wave of anti-war sentiment, will pass off both the Afghanistan war and his new war in Iraq and Syria to his successor. In 2010, his vice-president, Joe Biden, publicly vowed the US would be “totally out” of Afghanistan “come hell or high water, by 2014.”

Obama called Tuesday “a historic day” for the US and Afghanistan, as the security pact, which puts US troops beyond the reach of Afghan law, “will help advance our shared interests and the long-term security of Afghanistan.”

The primary explicit purpose of the deal, known as the Bilateral Security Agreement, is to permit the US to continue training Afghanistan’s roughly 350,000 security forces, which the US and Nato have built from scratch.

But with domestic US political acrimony swirling over the rise of the Islamic State (Isis) after the 2011 US withdrawal from Iraq, the accord is also a hedge against the resurgence of the Taliban and a recognition that 13 years of bloody, expensive war have failed to vanquish the insurgency.

 
Obama has skipped more than HALF of his daily intelligence briefings

Obama has skipped more than HALF of his daily intelligence briefings

WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 4: U.S. President Barack Obama looks over some papers in a West Wing office after arriving on the South Lawn of the White House on February 4, 2013 in Washington, D.C. Obama returned from a trip to Minneapolis, Minnesota to promote his initiative to reduce gun violence. (Photo by Ron Sachs-Pool/Getty Images)

President Barack Obama has skipped his in-person daily intelligence briefing on four out of every seven days of his presidency, according to a shocking report released Tuesday.

The Government Accountability Institute, previously best-known for needling members of Congress over insider-trading deals that lax laws have rendered legal, used the official White House calendar to compile a list of the days when Obama wasn't scheduled to receive a briefing.

The resulting numbers showed that he only attended the Presidential Daily Brief 42.1 per cent of the time.

ABC News reported in 2012 that the president often prefers to receive his daily briefing in writing, and reads it on his iPad. 

Obama received daily briefings in person only 3 out of every 7 days; this photo shows his November 14, 2012 brief with then-National Security Advisor Tom Donilon, then-Chief of Staff Jack Lew, and then-Deputy National Security Advisor Denis McDonough

'It's pretty well-known that the president hasn’t taken in-person intelligence briefings with any regularity since the early days of 2009,' the aide said. 'He gets them in writing.'

The resulting picture is one of a solitary chief executive consuming his intelligence briefs in a vacuum instead of engaging in two-way conversations with generals and spymasters. The personal disconnect between the Oval Office and the intelligence community has been a sore spot for the military, the CIA and the National Security Agency since early in the Obama presidency. Those tensions came to a head on Sunday, when the president blamed Director of National Intelligence James Clapper for failing to foresee the ISIS terror army's rise to power.

 
Oklahoma beheading: workplace violence or terrorism?

After a beheading in Oklahoma, debate over what to call it

The gruesome beheading in Oklahoma last week was, by any reasonable measure, horrifying. Police in Moore said that after Alton Nolen, an employee at a food processing plant, was fired on Thursday, he went to another part of the facility and attacked another employee with a knife. He killed Colleen Hufford and “severed” her head, according to a statement from Sgt. Jeremy Lewis. Nolen, who turned 30 last month, then attacked another co-worker named Traci Johnson.

Mark Vaughn, the chief operating officer of Vaughan Foods and a reserve deputy with Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office since 2010, confronted Nolen and shot him. Johnson and Nolen were both taken to the hospital in stable condition. Nolen has not been charged yet, though it is expected that he will be charged with murder. His mother and sister have apologized for the murders.

Authorities have not called the Oklahoma beheading terrorism, instead saying that it appears to be a case of workplace violence. Some commentators and politicians have disagreed with this assessment. Television host Joe Scarborough said this was due to “political correctness.” Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R), who is considering another presidential campaign in 2016, told Fox News that this appears to be “an act of violence that is associated with terrorism.”

“I think Americans are confused about what this is, and if this is a clear case of an individual going in and doing something that doesn’t meet their definition of workplace violence,” Perry said, according to the Hill. “I think any rational-thinking American is going to look and this and go this is more than just normal workplace violence.”

Putting aside the macabre reality of a world in which “normal workplace violence” and “what should count under the heading of school shootings” are things we can categorize and debate, there is the reality of what police and authorities say. The Moore police said that Nolen had tried to convert several co-workers to Islam. Two federal law enforcement officials told The Washington Post that Nolen was a recent convert to Islam with a “provocative” Facebook page that included a photo of Osama bin Laden.

 
Perry: Don't try to enter my house

Perry: Don't try to enter my house

By KENDALL BREITMAN

Rick Perry is pictured. | AP Photo

Gov. Rick Perry had a warning for anyone trying to break into the Texas governor’s mansion — not in my house.

“Speaking of getting knocked down,” Perry said on Tuesday on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” in reference to his failed presidential run in 2012. “Let me tell you - Texas governor’s [security] detail, do not try to run through the governor’s mansion.”

 
Republicans and Democrats: Doomed!?!

An attendee makes a donation to the campaign before US Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney speaks at a fundraiser. | Getty

Republicans and Democrats: Doomed!?!

By KENNETH P. VOGEL, DARREN SAMUELSOHN and TARINI PARTI

BREAKING: The fight for control of Congress is EXTREMELY CLOSE, but unless something changes BEFORE MIDNIGHT, Democrats are going to suffer CRUSHING DEFEATS under a wave of Republican big money.

But wait, Republicans, too, are being BEAT UP and CAN’T DEFEND THEMSELVES against Democrats who are OUTRAISING them.

Welcome to the politics of gloom, where Democratic and Republican operatives are dashing off Chicken Little emails at a dizzying rate, urging supporters to type in their credit card numbers and give $5, $10, or more ahead of a Tuesday night federal elections deadline — all in the name of leveling the playing field with the other sides’ relentless billionaires.

Gloominess used to be the domain of Democrats, who this weekend alone blasted out party fundraising emails declaring “Kiss any hope goodbye,” and “If you’ve given up on this election, then we should just quit now.”

But even Karl Rove — the GOP’s preeminent mega-donor schmoozer who helped raise $325 million in massive super PAC checks for 2012 by projecting a poll-defying optimism that was laid bare on election night — has altered his approach this time around.

“The midterm environment is toxic for Democrats, yet there’s a chance Republicans may not take the Senate,” Rove wrote in an email Sunday to National Republican Senatorial Committee donors. “Why? The Democrats have a huge money advantage,” he continued, only a few days after penning a Wall Street Journal column, urging his side’s activists to “open their wallets to candidates whom they may have never met” and also help get out the vote. “If they don’t, they should prepare for two more years of Majority Leader Harry Reid.”

 
Revisiting the Lehman Brothers Bailout That Never Was

Revisiting the Lehman Brothers Bailout That Never Was

 

Inside the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, time was running out to answer a question that would change Wall Street forever.

At issue that September, six years ago, was whether the Fed could save a major investment bank whose failure might threaten the entire economy.

The firm was Lehman Brothers. And the answer for some inside the Fed was yes, the government could bail out Lehman, according to new accounts by Fed officials who were there at the time.

But as the world now knows, no one rescued Lehman. Instead, the firm was allowed to collapse overnight, a decision that, in cool hindsight, let problems at one bank snowball into a full-blown panic. By the time it was over, nearly every other major bank had to be saved.

Why, given all that happened, was Lehman the only bank that was not too big to fail? For the first time, Fed officials have offered an account that differs significantly from the versions that, for many, have hardened into history.

Ben S. Bernanke, the Fed chairman at the time, Henry M. Paulson Jr., the former Treasury Secretary, and Timothy F. Geithner, who was then president of the New York Fed, have all argued that Lehman Brothers was in such a deep hole from its risky real estate investments that Fed did not have the legal authority to rescue it.

................................

Understanding why Lehman was allowed to die goes beyond apportioning responsibility for the financial crisis and the recession that cost millions of ordinary Americans jobs and savings. Today, long after the bailouts, the debate rages over the Fed’s authority to bail out failing firms. Some Fed officials worry that when the next financial crisis comes, the Fed will have less power to shield the financial system from the failure of a single large bank. After the Lehman debacle, Congress curbed the Fed’s ability to rescue a bank in trouble.

Whether to save Lehman came down to a crucial question: Did Lehman have enough solid assets to back a loan from the Fed? Finding the answer fell to two teams of financial experts at the New York Fed. Those teams had provisionally concluded that Lehman might, in fact, be a candidate for rescue, but members of those teams said they never briefed Mr. Geithner, who said he did not know of the results.

 
US & Russia Re-Arming for a New Cold War

US & Russia Re-Arming for a New Cold War

The U.S. and Russia are sinking billions into nuclear-capable bombers, missiles, and submarines. Another round of “Mutually Assured Destruction,” anyone?

Along with Russia’s persistence in the development of the Bulava sea-launched ballistic missile, the replacement of older intercontinental ballistic missiles by the road-mobile RS-26, and the apparent breach of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces treaty by the testing of the Iskander-K truck-mobile cruise missile, these developments have (to put it mildly) weakened the argument that if the U.S. led the way in cutting its nuclear forces, the rest of the world would follow.

A U.S. administration that started out showing sympathy with the Global Zero movement—the one to eventually eliminate all nuclear weapons—has quietly taken decisions that point in a very different direction. Notably, the future of the nuclear-deterrence triad seems more assured than it has for many years.

Between Obama’s election and inauguration, the first significant contract for what is now the Ohio Replacement Program submarine project was signed, and the administration has continued to support it. The controversial issue of whether, when and how the Long-Range Strike Bomber would be nuclear-capable has been put to bed: Every LRS-B will be nuclear-capable and it will be nuclear-certified two years after it enters service.

 
On the frontlines with drone pilots

On the frontlines with drone pilots

Ed Pilkington in Grand Forks, North Dakota

global hawk drone

The remote Grand Forks air force base is a command centre for Global Hawks surveillance drones, and the futuristic base from which pilots fly over far-flung nations by way of controls, keyboards and monitors.

Lieutenant Matthew, 23, is the face of the new generation of US fighter pilot. He dresses in the familiar single-piece olive green uniform worn by Tom Cruise in Top Gun, and like Cruise’s character, Maverick, he flies missions over war zones with multi-million dollar aircraft.

But Matthew – due to air force security rules, he did not give his last name – has never felt the G-forces of a fighter jet or flown at supersonic speeds. His background is not in flying, but in civil engineering. He sits behind a bank of digital screens rather than in a cockpit. And instead of a control stick, he uses a mouse.

In other words, Matthew is a computer geek.

He is a pilot with the 69th Reconnaissance Group stationed at Grand Forks air force base in North Dakota. His job is to fly Global Hawks, the unmanned surveillance drones that act as the frontline intelligence gatherers – the eyes and – of the US military.

Every day Matthew flies a Global Hawk remotely from his computer console, steering it with his mouse over a militarily significant part of the globe, from where the aircraft’s powerful sensors stream back precision images of enemy targets to air force headquarters. (He was not allowed to identify the countries in which he is currently flying.)

He says that although he is usually thousands of miles away from the location in which he is operating, he takes a keen interest in the geography. “You want to know which areas are dangerous and where there’s a risk of being shot down,” he says.

Lieutenant Matthew Global Hawk drone.

The Global Hawks do not carry weapons. But they are intimately involved in the deadly work of the US military, acting as intelligence gatherers for forces on the ground as well as pinpointing targets for bombers. Does he feel, as he sits at his computer console, that he is part of a military effort – that there is a “fighter” component to his title of “fighter pilot”?

When not on active missions over Afghanistan or Iraq, the Global Hawks are maintained in a hangar in the Grand Forks base. They make a jaw-dropping, if inelegant, spectacle. With their gargantuan 131-feet wingspan, and lumpy bodies, they have none of the brutal sleekness of conventional manned fighter jets, resembling nothing so much as a featherless chicken.

But they do well what they were designed to do: endurance flying at high altitudes. This summer a team at Grand Forks broke the record for distance flying, keeping a Global Hawk in the air without refueling for 34 hours straight. And with their formidable array of sensor equipment – including electro-optical and infrared cameras, synthetic aperture radar and ground moving target indicator radar – the aircraft can detect individual people and trucks moving on the ground from 60,000 feet.

It is an indication of the power of drones to revolutionize the way humans do business, in this case warfare, that the arrival of the Global Hawks has entirely transformed Grand Forks air force base. Until four years ago the base was a centre for conventional piloted aircraft, specifically the KC-135 refueling tankers that are used to keep fighter jets aloft.

But within a year, all manned planes at Grand Forks had been replaced by the Global Hawks. Today, the 1,700 active duty military personnel on the base focus their energies specifically on operating the drones.

 
How Serious Is the Supreme Court About Religious Freedom?

How Serious Is the Supreme Court About Religious Freedom?

By Dawinder S. Sidhu

A new case will test how Hobby Lobby will apply to minority faiths like Islam.

Religious freedom in the United States has ebbed and flowed between two competing concepts: the principled view that religion is a matter of individual conscience that cannot be invaded by the government, and the practical concern once expressed by Justice Antonin Scalia that accommodating all religious practices in our diverse society would be “courting anarchy.” In June, the Supreme Court ruled in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby that closely held corporations, whose owners objected to contraception on account of sincere Christian beliefs, could not be forced by the Affordable Care Act to include certain contraceptives in their employee insurance plans. In supporting the religious rights of business owners over a national health-care policy predicated on broad participation, the Roberts Court seemed to stake its place on the more protective end of the religious-freedom spectrum.

But the idea that Hobby Lobby creates robust protections will be credible only if the justices are willing to recognize the religious freedom of marginalized religious minorities—not just the Judeo-Christian tradition. The next religious-freedom case to come before the Court, Holt v. Hobbs, will test whether the Roberts Court’s stance on religious freedom includes a minority faith, Islam, practiced by a disfavored member of our society: a prisoner. At stake are both the state of religious freedom in the country and the Court’s reputation.

 
Riding a wave of fiery speeches, Cruz appears as a favored contender

Riding a wave of fiery speeches, Cruz appears as a favored contender

Sebastian Payne and Robert Costa

There isn’t a leader in the race for the GOP presidential nomination, but Ted Cruz is gaining support from social conservatives.

Cruz’s core supporters on the right are the activists and high-powered interest groups determined to keep faith-infused positions at the center of the Republican Party, regardless of a push by some in the GOP to seek distance from socially conservative stands on marriage and abortion.

Greg Mueller, a conservative strategist who has worked on three Republican presidential campaigns, said what’s fueling Cruz’s rise is a fierce determination by social conservatives not to be dictated to in 2016, as he believes they were in the past two elections and told to rally around more centrist nominees.

“Many social conservatives feel their issues have been kicked to the side and they are frustrated. Someone like Cruz taking the nomination in 2016 would give them a voice again,” he said. “It’s still early, and there are many potential candidates that could appeal to this base, but there is no question Senator Cruz has some early momentum with them. He hits all of the main themes the conservative base want to hear.”

Conservatives see an opening in the disarray in the GOP establishment, which has yet to settle on its preferred candidate amid former Florida governor Jeb Bush’s indecision about running and the troubles of New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who has seen his administration embroiled by a scandal over last year’s politically motivated closure of traffic lanes near the George Washington Bridge.

 
NFL Ref Penalizes Chiefs Player for ‘Excessive’ Muslim Prayer ‘Celebration’

NFL Ref Penalizes Chiefs Player for ‘Excessive’ Muslim Prayer ‘Celebration’

By Joe Coscarelli

During the Kansas City Chiefs’ 41-14 dismantling of the New England Patriots on Monday Night Football, safety Husain Abdullah scored the second touchdown of his career after intercepting a pass from Tom Brady. Once in the end zone, Abdullah slid to his knees and bowed down for a brief moment of what looked like prayer. Muslim prayer, that is. He was then flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct — excessive celebration — because it didn’t quite look like when Tim Tebow used to do it.

 
Mitt Isn’t Ready to Call It Quits

Mitt Isn’t Ready to Call It Quits

By MARK LEIBOVICH

The Romneys are in downsizing mode. They have sold their Belmont, Mass., townhouse, and they also might sell the villa in La Jolla, Calif., which they purchased for $12 million in 2008 — the one with the zoning and renovation troubles, the disdainful Democratic neighbors and the much-derided plans for a car elevator. On a lark, they recently decided to make their permanent home in Utah, where they are building a house adjacent to one of their five sons’ 2.5-acre property.

The relocation has not been without its practical concerns. When you run for president twice, you tend to accumulate huge amounts of campaign souvenirs, gifts and other detritus. However elusive the ultimate prize, the trunkloads of consolation trophies endure: There are the plaques, the awards and the occasional engraved glass eagle (“I got it for a speech or something”). Then there are the homemade portraits of the candidate, sent in by supporters. The Romneys have also saved 22 of each campaign T-shirt, button and poster — one for each of their grandchildren. From Ann’s $1,000-a-plate birthday luncheon in April 2012, they have saved the cake topping of her on horseback that was commissioned by Donald Trump.

Had the election turned out differently, these tokens might have found a nice home in some government facility, en route to a presidential library. Instead, Romney was forced to cram them into his garage in Wolfeboro. When he began to worry that the snowy winters would foster mold, he loaded what he could into a horse trailer and paid a guy named Poppy to drive it across the country. Before he left, the Romneys hosted a giveaway party, or Yankee swap, for the things they didn’t want.

 ..............................................

After losing the presidential election to Barack Obama in 2012, Romney expected to become a political empty-nester of sorts — a “loser for life,” as he predicted in “Mitt,” the Netflix documentary about his two presidential campaigns. (“Mike Dukakis, you know, he can’t get a job mowing lawns,” he remarked at the time.) Unlike John McCain and John Kerry, Romney didn’t have a job to return to in the Senate. Unlike Al Gore, he had already amassed extraordinary wealth. Romney, who is 67, was left to confront the vacuum of a long retirement, come what may.

Being the first nominee to nurse his defeat fully in the social-media age brought its own indignities. Gore could go away and grow a beard, then get rich, fat and separated from his wife, all in relative obscurity. Romney, by contrast, has posed dutifully for Instagram photos with commercial-airline companions (“airports are the worst”), supermarket employees and staff members at Wahoo’s Fish Taco. He briefly inspired a hashtag, #SelfiesWithMitt. Recently he was taking an early-morning jog in Arkansas, where he was campaigning for the Republican gubernatorial candidate, Asa Hutchinson, when a woman accosted him. “You’re John Kerry! You’re John Kerry!” she yelled. He tried to correct her, but she wasn’t buying it; she kept running alongside him. “I said, ‘I’m not John Kerry — I’m Tom Brady,’ ” Romney recalled. At that, she left him alone.

As a candidate, Romney often appeared as if he were bracing for a light fixture to drop on his head. On this September morning, though, he seemed far more at ease. No doubt some of his buoyancy could be ascribed to a postdefeat surge of popularity. G.O.P. candidates had been begging him to campaign and raise money for them; polls had found that he would defeat Obama in a rerun of 2012. A number of Romney’s seemingly askew assertions during the campaign — like identifying Russia as the United States’ greatest geopolitical threat — now looked prescient. An online “Draft Mitt” petition had already accumulated more than 120,000 votes of support.

Romney shrugged off the recent attention, citing the natural human tendency to covet the unavailable. (“If you live in the mountains, you long for the trees and the lakes,” he said. “If you live in the trees and the lakes. . . .”) And yet a confluence of political realities has created a genuine opening for a Romney third act. As Obama struggles through a difficult final term, there is a lack of a clear Republican heir apparent. Presumptive early front-runners, like Chris Christie and Jeb Bush, have shown themselves to be flawed or reluctant or both. A splintering of possible movement candidates (Rand Paul, Ted Cruz) could beget a need for a default consensus choice.

Romney, for his part, is noticeably playing along. He recently told a radio host that he was not planning on running for president but allowed that “circumstances can change.” A recent column by the conservative pundit Byron York noted that Romney had kept in close contact with many of his advisers and aides. As we spoke, Romney compared the barrage of 2016-related questions to a scene in the film “Dumb and Dumber.” After Jim Carrey’s character is flatly rejected by Lauren Holly, she tells him that there’s a one-in-a-million chance she would change her mind. “So,” Romney told me, embodying the character, “Jim Carrey says, ‘You’re telling me there’s a chance.’ ”

 
Incumbent governors fear wipe out

From top left, clockwise: Dannel Malloy, Rick Snyder, Tom Corbett, Pat Quinn, Sam Brownback and Paul LePage are shown in this composite. | AP Photos

Incumbent governors fear wipe out

By JAMES HOHMANN

As many as a dozen incumbent governors are fighting for their political lives five weeks out from Election Day — a list that includes the chief executives of states as red as Kansas and as blue as Connecticut as well as several top presidential battlegrounds.

The unsettled gubernatorial landscape has drawn a fraction of the attention of the seesawing battle for the Senate. Yet the state of play is dramatic in its own right: The fate of big-name Republicans such as Wisconsin’s Scott Walker, Florida’s Rick Scott and Michigan’s Rick Snyder are all on the line, and Democrats such as Colorado’s John Hickenlooper and Illinois’ Pat Quinn are locked in tough reelection races that could go either way.

The number of vulnerable state chief executives this year is striking considering how hard it is to beat an incumbent governor: Since 1960, four out of five incumbents, on average, have won reelection. Only two incumbents were defeated in 2010, a wave year, and none lost two years ago.

Republicans currently control 29 governorships; Democrats hold 21. A difficult map makes it unlikely Republicans will control more than 31 governorships in a best-case scenario; 26 or 27 appears to be the floor.

 
Armed intruder had penetrated farther into White House than admitted.

White house fence

Armed intruder had penetrated farther into White House than admitted.

Dan Roberts

Revelation came ahead of a congressional hearing on Tuesday and heaped pressure on the beleaguered US secret service

An armed intruder said by prosecutors to have been a threat to the president made it far further into the White House after jumping a perimeter fence than the secret service first admitted, according to damning new evidence to be heard by a congressional panel on Tuesday.

Witnesses have told the House oversight committee that Omar Gonzalez overpowered an officer at the front door and was not stopped until he reached a separate room toward the back of the White House, according to testimony first reported by the Washington Post.

After running past a stairway leading to the first family’s living quarters, Gonzalez, a former army sniper, sprinted the 80-foot length of the East Room and was finally apprehended at the doorway to the Green Room – another formal room overlooking the South Lawn – the Post reports.

The account differs starkly from a press release issued by the secret service the day after the incident which merely says he was “physically apprehended after entering the White House North Portico doors”.
 
Joaquin Castro endorses Hillary Clinton

Joaquin Castro is pictured. | AP Photo

Joaquin Castro endorses Hillary Clinton

By MAGGIE HABERMAN

  • Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-Texas) is endorsing Hillary Clinton through an email sent out by the low-dollar super PAC looking to galvanize support for a candidacy in 2016.
  • “There’s no doubt about it: Hillary is the best person to be our 45th president,” Castro writes in the email
  • “Hillary has always been a tireless advocate for working families — she’s never ceased to make sure everybody has a fair shot at achieving the American Dream,” he writes.
 
Mystery of the Pentagon space plane's two-year mission.

The X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle waits in the encapsulation cell of the Evolved Expendable Launch vehicle at the Astrotech facility in Titusville, Florida in this April 5, 2010 photo

Mystery of the Pentagon space plane

X-37B has been circling the planet for TWO YEARS

The mystery behind the mission of an space plane spotted circling the planet for nearly two years may have been unraveled by a group of devoted satellite watches and intelligence experts. Bearing no small resemblance to a NASA space shuttle, the X-37B Orbital Test Vehicle's only role acknowledged by the Pentagon is for experimenting with new technologies. Some have theorized it's an anti-satellite weapon or even a space bomber.

The more obvious, realistic, and likely function is that the X-37B has taken over the retired shuttle's job of carrying secret satellites and classified sensors into space

The more obvious, realistic, and likely function is that the X-37B has taken over the retired shuttle's job of carrying secret satellites and classified sensors into space.

NASA's shuttle was used for classified military missions between the early 1980s and early 1990s, reports The New York Post. In that time, it took several military payloads up, even as the Pentagon and NASA developed a strained relationship over scheduling only exacerbated by the 1986 Challenger explosion.

With the X-37B, the Pentagon eliminates the need to work and play well with NASA, or any human being at all. 

The X-37B become an object of mystery in 2009 when the Air Force - which had been developing it in the open - suddenly decided it was classified.

An unidentified senior Air Force official said of the craft at its maiden voyage in 2010: 'It's just an updated version of the space shuttle type of activities in space.' Since its third launch in Dec. 11, 2012, it has spent 600 days in space with its journey closely monitored. If it is carrying spy satellites, it's likely been used to capture images of North Korea and Iran, and could have value as an easily maneuverable satellite.

 
Democrats buy ads on ‘Big Brother.’ Republicans prefer ‘Big Bang Theory.’

Clockwise: "Big Bang Theory," "Fargo," "Modern Family." (CBS, FX, ABC)

Democrats buy ads on ‘Big Brother.’ Republicans prefer ‘Big Bang Theory.’

Philip Bump / WashPost

 A review of FCC records reveals which television programs the parties favor when it comes to advertising.

If you have seen the "Today Show" or your local news or an NFL game in recent weeks and you are unfortunate/fortunate enough to live in (or near) a Senate battleground state, what I am about to write will probably not surprise you: Those broadcasts have been the most likely to host ads from Senate candidates and party campaign committees since August 1.

Or, I should say: They probably are. It wasn't until July of this year that the Federal Communications Commission posted online reports from local TV stations about campaign advertising buys. Prior to that, you often had to go to individual stations to figure out who was spending, and on what. Local TV stations, of course, love political ads; in its 2013 "State of the Media" report, Pew Research noted that "[e]ven numbered years almost always mean higher revenue for local TV, thanks to political ads and the Olympics." It's a cash cow.

 
Is Obama passing the buck on underestimating Islamic State?

Is Obama passing the buck on underestimating Islamic State?

By Peter Grier

 

  • Some don't like how President Obama handled a question about the Islamic State during a '60 Minutes' interview. Some think he threw his Director of National Intelligence under a bus.

At no point in this exchange did he acknowledge any personal responsibility for missing the phenomenon of the rise of IS. Perhaps that’s understandable: Presidents are very busy people who have to rely on their administration officials to guide them. But in this case, a little personal humility might have been well placed, some pundits argued.

The “60 Minutes” exchange showed “the president’s maddening habit of shifting blame,” writes National Journal’s veteran columnist Ron Fournier. “This is more than a tick; it’s a personality flaw and a political problem, because Americans want their leaders to be accountable and credible.”

 
Confirmation battles are back

From left: Orrin Hatch, Harry Reid and John McCain are shown in this composite. | AP Photos

Confirmation battles are back

By BURGESS EVERETT

Prepare for the return of the confirmation fight.

If Republicans capture the Senate majority in November, their sway over prominent judgeships and Cabinet vacancies — potentially including a new attorney general — will become one of the GOP’s primary leverage points against President Barack Obama.

But first the GOP must decide whether to adopt Senate Democrats’ bellicose tactic to allow approval of most executive branch nominees by a simple majority vote. The rules change to the filibuster was implemented by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), but it could now come back to bite him.

Republicans left Washington already divided over how they would approach this critical element of majority rule. GOP senators are undecided on whether to restore the previous 60-vote threshold for all presidential nominees except those to the Supreme Court or leave the filibuster hurdle where Democrats set it, at a simple majority.

And, perhaps surprisingly, some Republicans say they aren’t bent on revenge.

“I will work very hard to go back to 60 votes,” said Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who boldly predicts a Republican Senate would process Obama’s nominees “more rapidly than [Democrats] do today.”

 
The Risks of Climate Change to Investors

The Risks of Climate Change to Investors

What is the impact of climate change, both the realities and the myths, on investments? Impax founder and CEO Ian Simm explains on MoneyBeat.

 
Larry Summers: Obama and Clinton Are Very Different Bosses

President Barack Obama and former President Bill Clinton mark the 20th anniversary of AmeriCorps.

Larry Summers: Obama and Clinton Are Very Different Bosses

 

The current president is a stickler for punctuality and order, the former Treasury Secretary tells the Nantucket Project. But Clinton? Not so much

“If you have a 10 o’clock meeting with President Obama,” he says, “you should be in your office at 10 minutes before 10, because he might be running early. If you have a 10 o’clock meeting with President Clinton, it’s really okay if you cruise in at 10:05, because he’s not going to be ready until 10:20.”

The differences in meeting styles go beyond punctuality, Summers continued: “If you’re meeting with President Obama, if it’s a 30-minute meeting, at 10:26 his assistant will bring him an index card telling him about this next meeting, and at 10:30, you will be gone. That 30-minute meeting you were supposed to have with President Clinton that was supposed to begin at 10 and actually began at 10:20? At 10:50, he is just warming up.”

Number 42 and Number 44 differ in their approach to meeting prep as well. If Summers gave Obama a memo in advance, he says, “the probability that he would have read the memo was 99.5 percent, and if you attempted to summarize the memo, he would politely but very firmly say, “Larry, I read the memo.” President Clinton? “He might have read the memo. He might not have read the memo. He kind of welcomed your summary.”

 
Can the Ultimate Clintonite Still Cut it in Bubba's Home Base?

Can the Ultimate Clintonite Still Cut it in Bubba's Home Base?

By Tim Murphy

Arkansas' fourth district used to be reliably Democratic. Then voters elected Tom Cotton. What happened?

For Democrats, the rural fourth district, stretching from the southwest corner of the state to the edge of the Ozarks and the Little Rock suburbs, is the one that got away. In 2010, a year Democrats lost every other election for national office in Arkansas, Clinton's home district stayed blue by 19 points—only to fall into Republican hands two years later. Witt, a farmer-turned-FEMA director whose service in the Clinton administration was hailed by Republicans and Democrats alike, seemed like the party's best shot at winning it back. But the only polling of the race thus far has shown him trailing badly to Republican Bruce Westerman, the majority leader of the state House of Representatives.

Now the party is faced with an ominous prospect: If a guy from Wildcat Hollow like James Lee Witt can't make it in a place like the Fourth, just what hope is there for any other Democrat?

 
Bill and Hillary Clinton visited the family’s ultra-luxurious private birth suites

New grandparents: A jubilant Bill Clinton posted this picture of himself, Charlotte and Hillary together shortly after Chelsea shared her first photograph

Proud grandparents Bill and Hillary Clinton visited the family’s ultra-luxurious private birth suites on Sunday

By Kieran Corcoran for MailOnline and Aaron Kanaan

Bill and Hillary leave hospital after dining in Chelsea and Charlotte's plush private maternity suite which has already cost them $5,000 and comes with its own chef.

Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinksy’s newborn daughter, Charlotte Clinton Mezvinsky, was the guest of honor at her first exclusive dinner party.

Proud grandparents Bill and Hillary Clinton visited the family’s ultra-luxurious private birth suites on the fourth floor of Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City on Sunday afternoon.

‘They were both beaming,’ an onlooker tells MailOnline of the proud grandparents, who arrived at the Upper East Side facility at 2:30pm.

After two hours, the couple decided to extend their time at the hospital. ‘The Clintons are going to be staying for dinner,’ a member of the couple’s Secret Service security detail told MailOnline exclusively, noting they would be spending ‘at least a couple more hours’ with their granddaughter, who arrived at 7:03 pm on Friday, September 26.

Luxurious: The Lenox Hill hospital offers huge, well-appointed rooms such as this for celebrity moms

As a result of the birth, new grandfather Bill has bowed out of a scheduled appearance to lend a hand to a pair of embattled Democratic candidates in Colorado. Clinton was to speak at a fundraiser Saturday for Sen. Mark Udall. Gov. John Hickenlooper was also scheduled to be at the event. Both Democrats are locked in tight re-election battles with their Republican challengers. He has been travelling around the country to help the party this year.

 
The Religious Right’s Slow-Motion Suicide

 

The Religious Right’s Slow-Motion Suicide

In fairness, the culture-war right has done less damage than the neocons and the superrich have. But they’re still the ones on the ropes.

 The country has liberalized culturally in a range of ways in the past six or eight years, and it’s not only not going back, it’s charging relentlessly forward. The religious right also has no leaders anymore of the remotest interest. Back in the ‘80s, Jerry Falwell was a figure to contend with; to loathe, certainly, but also to fear. Today? Pat Robertson has lost his marbles, seemingly, and after him, who? Tony Perkins? No one even knows his name, or if they do, they inevitably think of the guy who played filmdom’s most famous matricidal cross-dresser and aren’t entirely sure that this Tony Perkins might not be that Tony Perkins, which is not quite the type of association they’re looking for.

It’s a group that is losing power, and I think the leaders and even the rank-and-filers know it. Their vehicle, Republican Party, is going libertarian on them. Rand Paul, whether he wins the 2016 nomination or not, is clearly enough of a force within the party that he is pushing it away from the culture wars. He is joined in this pursuit by the conservative intellectual class, which knows the culture wars are a dead-bang loser for the GOP and which finds the culture warriors more than a little embarrassing, and by the establishment figures, the Karl Rove types, who stroked them back in 2004 but who now see them as a liability, at least at the presidential level. There are still, of course, many states where these voters come in quite handy in that they elect many Republican representatives and senators.

 
Enough Idealism - How two presidents courted Middle East disaster

By David French

As the president who pledged to end two wars restarts our fight in Iraq (and perhaps expands it into Syria), it’s worth reflecting on one of the cardinal lessons of our 13 years of post-9/11 conflict against jihad: Idealism kills.

President George W. Bush, infamous as a “warmonger” to the Left and mocked for his allegedly black-and-white, Manichean worldview, was an idealist. The president who consistently opposed “evildoers” and decried the “axis of evil” is also the president who proclaimed Islam a religion of peace and declared, “I believe God has planted in every human heart the desire to live in freedom.”

President Barack Obama, by contrast, apologized for the sins of the Bush era and declared in Cairo, “Islam has a proud tradition of tolerance. We see it in the history of Andalusia and Cordoba during the Inquisition. I saw it firsthand as a child in Indonesia, where devout Christians worshiped freely in an overwhelmingly Muslim country.” Never mind that Cordoba and Andalusia happened to be conquered territories — conquered by Muslim armies; the idealism shines through.

But while Presidents Bush and Obama both declared affection for Islam in their words, their deeds reveal two distinctly different kinds of idealism, both of which move far beyond the all-too-familiar willingness of politicians to deliver “up with people” political saccharin in speeches. Speeches are one thing, policies another — more consequential — thing altogether.

In their policies, George Bush possessed a deadly idealism about our potential friends, while Barack Obama possesses a deadly idealism about our enemies.

 
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