The Pentagon has confirmed that Iran fired at a pilotless U.S. drone last week but missed its target. Pentagon spokesperson George Little insisted the incident occurred in international, not Iranian, airspace, and vowed that U.S. surveillance flights would continue.
George Little: “The incident occurred over international waters approximately 16 nautical miles off the Iranian coastline. The MT-1 was not hit and returned to its base safely. The United States has communicated to the Iranians that we will continue to conduct surveillance flights over international waters over the Arabian Gulf, consistent with longstanding practice and our commitment to the security of the region. We have a wide range of options, from diplomatic to military, to protect our military assets and our forces in the region, and we’ll do so when necessary.”
The news comes as the Obama administration announced a new round of sanctions against Iran, its first foreign policy initiative since Tuesday’s election.
The 2012 election has officially come to a close after a final vote count confirmed President Obama won the state of Florida. Mitt Romney’s campaign conceded Florida on Thursday with Obama ahead by over 58,000 votes. Obama’s final Electoral College tally was 332 votes to Romney’s 206.
Video has been released of President Obama breaking into tears as he thanks workers and volunteers at his Chicago campaign headquarters. Obama made the visit the day after he won re-election.
President Obama: “Even before last night’s results, I felt that the work that I had done in running for office had come full circle, because what you guys have done means that the work that I’m doing is important. And I’m really proud of that. I’m really proud of all of you.”
President Obama is expected to deliver his first address since his victory speech later today with a statement on the economy.
Topping Obama’s post-election domestic agenda is the so-called “fiscal cliff” of $700 billion in expiring tax cuts and automatic spending reductions set to take effect at the end of the year. Under the terms of last year’s debt deal, Obama and Senate Democrats must agree on a deficit reduction package with House Republicans or face automatic cuts that will likely contract the economy. On Thursday, a new study from the Congressional Budget Office said Obama’s call for ending the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans while maintaining the cuts for lower-income brackets will not hinder economic growth. Republicans have insisted on preserving tax cuts for the rich under any deficit reduction package, claiming it would protect jobs. But the nonpartisan CBO estimates the move would reduce job growth by as much as 200,000, far less than the 700,000 cited by House Speaker John Boehner.
More than 761,000 homes and businesses remained without power on the East Coast Thursday after a powerful nor’easter knocked out electricity for tens of thousands on top of those still in the dark from Superstorm Sandy. The number includes more than 20,000 residents of public housing in New York City, who in some cases also lack heat and running water. Three of New York City’s hospitals remain closed after losing power during the storm, and there is no current timetable for their reopening.
On Thursday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said economic damage from the storm could reach $50 billion.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo: “The first cost estimate that I have seen has suggested that this storm will cost the region $50 billion in damage and economic loss, state of New York about $33 billion in damage and economic loss. That is a staggering number.”
In the face of an ongoing fuel shortage, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has unveiled a new rationing system for the purchase of gas. On Thursday, Bloomberg said motorists will only be able to purchase gas on alternating days dependent on whether their license plate ends in odd or even numbers.
Michael Bloomberg: “Only 25 percent of our gas stations, we estimate, are open. Drivers are still facing long lines. Frustrations are only growing. And it now appears that there will be shortages for possibly another couple weeks. The best way, we think, to cut down the lines and help customers buy gas faster, to help gas stations stay open longer and to reduce the potential for disorder is to alternate the days that drivers can purchase gas.”
Arizona shooter Jared Loughner has been sentenced to life in prison for the rampage in Tucson last year that killed six people and wounded 13 others, including former Democratic Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. Under a plea deal reached earlier this year, Loughner will spend the rest of his life in prison with no chance of parole. John Leonardo, the U.S. attorney for Arizona, said prosecutors decided not to seek capital punishment because of Loughner’s mental health.
John Leonardo: “For the family members of those who were killed and for those that survived this terrible event, it is our hope that the final resolution of this case will be a positive step towards their healing process, physically, emotionally and psychologically. It was with them in mind that we entered into this plea agreement with the defendant. We also believe that this sentence is appropriate in light of Jared Loughner’s severe mental illness. It seems likely that had Mr. Loughner not suffered from mental illness of schizophrenia, he would not have committed these horrific acts.”
At Thursday’s court hearing, Loughner faced a number of his victims, including Giffords and her former congressional aide, Ron Barber. Barber spoke to reporters after the sentencing.
Ron Barber: “And then I turned to Mr. Loughner and said, 'I hold you — hold no hatred for you, but I am very, very angry and sick at heart about what you did and the hurt you have imposed on all of us.' I told him that he must live with this burden, and he’ll never see outside of a prison again. And I said in the end, 'I hope that these long years of incarceration that you face will give you the time to think about what you have done and to seek forgiveness from those whose lives — to which whose lives you've brought so much tears and so much sadness.’”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is confronting a new diplomatic challenge with President Obama’s re-election. After publicly defying the Obama administration on West Bank settlements, pushing for a military attack on Iran, and even appearing to back Mitt Romney in the presidential race, Netanyahu is facing pressure from within his government to repair strained Israeli-U.S. ties. Hours after Obama’s victory, Israeli Deputy Prime Minister Eli Yishai said: “This has not been a very good morning for Netanyahu.” Later in the day, Netanyahu staged a news conference with U.S. Ambassador Dan Shapiro to publicly congratulate Obama on his win.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: “I want to congratulate President Obama on his re-election. I think the United States of America again demonstrated why it’s the greatest democracy on earth. The security relationship between the United States and Israel is rock solid, and I look forward to working with President Obama to further strengthen this relationship, and I look forward to working with him to advance our goals of peace and security.”
Netanyahu followed up his comments with a personal telephone call to Obama on Thursday.
One of the first tests of Obama’s post-election Middle East policy will come this month as the Palestinian Authority seeks non-member status at the United Nations, which the United States forcefully opposed last year. The move would grant Palestinians recognition at bodies like the International Criminal Court, where they could potentially bring cases against Israel. If approved, the move could trigger a U.S. law that would force the defunding of the PA and even the entire United Nations. On Thursday, the PA went ahead with its effort, circulating a draft resolution for recognition to U.N. members.
In news from the Occupied Territories, a Palestinian boy was killed Thursday in an Israeli attack on the Gaza Strip. The boy was shot as Israeli troops exchanged fire with Palestinian militants near the Israel-Gaza border.
The White House has announced President Obama will visit Burma later this month as part of the administration’s efforts to unfreeze ties with the ruling military junta. Obama’s visit will mark the first to Burma by a sitting U.S. president.
Activists in Arizona are challenging the re-election of controversial sheriff Joe Arpaio, citing a large amount of uncounted ballots. Arpaio has faced widespread accusations of discrimination and civil rights abuses against Latinos as well as financial misconduct. Election officials in Maricopa County have acknowledged some 415,000 early and provisional ballots remain uncounted, a total that could wipe out Arpaio’s election victory of 88,000 votes. Activists have been holding vigils outside the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office, demanding that the votes be counted and alleging Election Day irregularities.
A man claiming to be a business owner in Las Vegas has publicly announced he has fired 22 of his more than 114 “mostly Hispanic” employees because of President Obama’s re-election. Speaking anonymously to the radio station KSNT, the man blamed the expected costs of President Obama’s healthcare law.
“David”: “I explained to them a month ago, if Obama gets in office, the regulations for 'Obamacare' are going to hurt our business, and I am going to have to make provisions to make sure I have enough money to cover the payroll taxes, the additional healthcare I’m going to have to do. And I explained that to them, and I said, 'You do what you feel in your heart you need to do, but I'm just letting you know as a warning this is things that I have to think of as a business owner.’ Well, unfortunately, the — and most of my employees are Hispanic, I’m not going to go into what kind of company I have, but I have mostly Hispanic employees. Well, unfortunately, we know what happened. I can’t wait around anymore. I need to be proactive. I had to lay off 22 people today to make sure that my business is going to thrive and that I’m going to be around for years to come.”
A suspect has been arrested in Michigan for a spate of shooting attacks that terrorized residents of the town of Wixom. Raulie Wayne Casteel is accused of carrying out 24 random shootings at motorists driving along the Interstate 96 corridor. Only one person was wounded in the attacks over the course of three weeks.
A federal appeals court has dismissed a lawsuit against former U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld for his role in crafting policies that led to torture in Iraq. In an 8-to-3 decision, the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled two American citizens allegedly tortured at a U.S. military base in Iraq have no right to sue Rumsfeld and other U.S. officials. The plaintiffs, Donald Vance and Nathan Ertel, were reportedly arrested and tortured after collaborating with the FBI in an investigation of their employer in Iraq, the private security company Shield Group Security. The two men were eventually released and never charged with a crime. Wednesday’s decision overturns two previous court rulings allowing the case to proceed. The Obama administration followed the Bush administration in seeking the lawsuit’s dismissal.