Senate Republicans have blocked the nomination of Senator Chuck Hagel to become the next secretary of defense in a move blasted by Democrats. Republicans say they want more information first from the White House about events surrounding the fatal attack on the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, last September. This is Republican Senator John Cornyn of Texas.
Sen. John Cornyn: “The majority leader knows full well that the reason why cloture was denied, or the debate — closing off debate was denied, is because there are reasonable requests being made on this side for additional information. And I hope and trust that that information will be provided here in the next few days, and when we come back from the recess, we’ll have another vote and another opportunity for senators to express themselves. But this is not any attempt to kill this nomination. This is not a filibuster.”
Democrats are vowing to revive Hagel’s nomination following next week’s recess. Despite Republican denials, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said the block represented an historic filibuster.
Sen. Harry Reid: “The filibuster of Sen. Hagel’s nomination is unprecedented. I repeat, not a single nominee for secretary of defense ever in the history of our country has been filibustered. Never, ever!”
Hagel is a former Republican senator who has faced criticism for straying from the party line on Iran and the Iraq war and for making comments perceived as critical of Israel. President Obama touted Hagel’s Republican credentials Thursday during an online video chat.
President Obama: “Chuck Hagel, who, by the way, was a member of the Republican caucus, a colleague of all of these folks, who the Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, and others consistently praised when he was still in the Senate; who has two Purple Stars — two purple Hearts, was an extraordinary soldier, was head of the USO; served on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee; and is praised by people like Brent Scowcroft, who was George H.W. Bush’s national security adviser, and Colin Powell and others, is imminently qualified to be secretary of defense.”
Bahraini authorities say they are probing the deaths of a teenage protester and a policeman during mass protests and clashes marking the second anniversary of Bahrain’s pro-democracy uprising. Sixteen-year-old Hussain al-Jaziri was reportedly shot by authorities at close range.
In Russia, more than 400 people were reportedly injured when a meteorite shot across the sky and dropped fireballs down to earth. Video shows the meteorite blazing a brilliant path of light across the sky. But the display caused mass panic as car alarms went off and windows shattered. Authorities said most injuries were minor and resulted from flying glass.
Authorities in California say the body found inside a burnt-out cabin in California is that of former police officer and shooting suspect Christopher Dorner. Dorner is accused of waging a campaign of terror against his former employer, the Los Angeles Police Department, and ultimately killing four people, including a sheriff’s deputy caught in a shootout at the cabin. Dorner had accused the department of racism and corruption. Officials deny they intentionally set a fire that gutted the cabin where Dorner was hiding, but admit the blaze was ignited by their pyrotechnic-style tear-gas canisters known as “burners.” Dorner’s scorched remains had to be identified by dental records.
American Airlines and U.S. Airways have announced plans to merge, creating the world’s largest airline. In an editorial, The New York Times called for antitrust regulators to probe the merger, which would put more than 70 percent of passenger business under the control of four airlines.
Senate Democrats have announced a plan to avert automatic spending cuts set to kick in under the looming sequestration. The proposal includes spending cuts and tax hikes, primarily on millionaires. Earlier this week, top military leaders appeared before Congress to urge a delay to the automatic cuts. The Pentagon is set to lose $46 billion in funding come March under President Obama’s spending deal with Republicans. General Martin Dempsey, the chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and General Raymond Odierno, the U.S. Army chief of staff, said the cuts could bring about a crisis of military readiness.
Gen. Martin Dempsey: “The magnitude of this thing, even if we got all of the authority in the universe to deal with it, this would be the steepest, biggest reduction in total obligating authority for the Defense Department in history, at a time when I will personally attest to the fact that it’s more dangerous than it’s ever been.”
Gen. Raymond Odierno: “We have and we will continue to do our part, but the significance of these budget reductions will directly impact our ability to sustain readiness today and into the future. We simply cannot take the readiness of our force for granted. If we do not have the resources to train and equip the force, our soldiers, our young men and women, are the ones who will pay the price.”
A pair of senators have unveiled a comprehensive plan to address climate change in the United States. The legislation by Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and California Democrat Sen. Barbara Boxer aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050. Amid other sweeping measures, the bill would impose a fee on greenhouse gas emissions that would help fund investments in renewable energy. It would also provide rebates to consumers to offset potential price hikes by fossil fuel companies. Senators Sanders and Boxer touted the bill at a news conference on Wednesday.
Sen. Bernie Sanders: “A major focus of this legislation is a price on carbon and methane emissions. This fee on the largest fossil fuel polluters affects less than 3,000 entities nationwide but covers 85 percent of the U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Congressional Research Service. This legislation ends the fossil fuel subsidies and protects communities by requiring that fracking operations comply with the Safe Drinking Water Act and disclose the chemicals they use.”
Sen. Barbara Boxer: “The proceeds will create jobs, many jobs, and the rest of the proceeds will reduce the deficit. So the Sanders-Boxer bill reduces carbon pollution and climate disruption while creating jobs and reducing the deficit. If ever there was a win-win-win, this bill is a win-win-win.”
The largest climate change rally ever is expected in the U.S. Capitol on Sunday.
In the U.S. House, a bipartisan team of lawmakers has introduced a bill to prohibit the use of armed drones within the United States. The bill would restrict the use of drones by law enforcement, requiring judicial approval and restricting surveillance to criminal acts. U.S. aviation officials are now seeking proposals for six sites that would be used to test the use of domestic drones across the country.
The former chair of the Republican Party in Florida has pleaded guilty to charges of grand theft and money laundering. Jim Greer was indicted in 2010 on allegations of steering political donations into his own private accounts. He made waves last year after disclosing top Florida Republican officials openly discussed suppressing the state’s African-American vote.
Online retailer Amazon is facing a scandal in Germany amid allegations it employed security guards with neo-Nazi ties in a bid to intimidate foreign workers. A documentary broadcast by Germany’s ARD television channel revealed guards in black uniforms, boots and military haircuts commonly searched the living spaces of migrant workers. The firm is called HESS Security, which ARD implied was a reference to Adolf Hitler’s deputy, Rudolf Hess.
As President Obama continues his push for stricter gun control in the wake of the Newtown shooting massacre, a new report says his administration has been prosecuting far fewer gun crimes than the Bush administration. A research group connected to Syracuse University found federal weapons prosecutions have declined to their lowest levels in nearly a decade. President Obama is expected to speak about gun violence during an address in his home city of Chicago today.
A media advocacy group says a record number of journalists were imprisoned around the world last year in what it termed a “deteriorating environment for press freedom.” The Committee to Protect Journalists says 232 journalists were jailed last year, the highest number since surveying began in 1990. Seventy journalists were killed in the line of duty, an increase of more than 40 percent from the previous year.
A top Native American leader is urging House lawmakers to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act and allow tribal governments to prosecute non-Native men who abuse women on tribal lands. Jefferson Keel, president of the National Congress of American Indians, made the remarks Thursday in his State of the Indian Nations address. He said the death rate of Native women on some reservations is 10 times the national average. Nearly 60 percent of Native women are married to non-Native men, and according to Justice Department data, non-Native men carry out nearly 90 percent of reported rapes against Native women. Keel said tribes still remain powerless.
Jefferson Keel: “Today, tribes do not have the authority to prosecute non-Natives who beat, rape or even kill women on tribal lands. State and federal authorities are often hundreds of miles away, without the local resources to investigate crimes. And in recent times, U.S. attorneys have declined to prosecute a majority of violent crimes in Indian country, most of which are related to sexual abuse. No other government would stand for this violation of sovereignty or continued injustice. No other government should, and no other government has to. The solution is simple: Congress must reauthorize the landmark Violence Against Women Act and assure that tribal governments have the authority to prosecute non-Native men accused of violence against women on tribal lands.”
The Senate has passed a version of the Violence Against Women Act that allows Native American courts to prosecute non-Native domestic violence suspects, as well as providing new protections for LGBT victims. House Speaker John Boehner signaled Thursday House Republicans may be open to considering the Senate version after initially blocking the bill’s reauthorization over the expanded protections.
In more than 200 cities around the world on Thursday, people flocked to the streets to dance as part of the global “One Billion Rising” campaign to end violence against women and girls. Global actions included marches, rallies, flash mobs, workshops and lots of dancing. One country at the forefront of the global uprisings was India, where mass protests had previously erupted over the gang rape and murder of a young woman on a bus in New Delhi. Hundreds joined the “One Billion Rising” action in Johannesburg, South Africa, where, on that same day, the girlfriend of Paralympic star Oscar Pistorius was shot dead on the outskirts of the capital. Pistorius, known globally as the first double-leg amputee to run in the Olympics, appeared in court today to face a single charge of murder. But on Thursday, protesters like Yvette Raphael were more focused on his alleged victim, the 30-year-old model Reeva Steenkamp.
Yvette Raphael: “A woman died again. A woman died, and I’m angry. I’m angry that a woman died again today. Whether Oscar is guilty or not, I cannot say, but all I can say, a woman died, and it’s one woman too many.”
New York City also joined the One Billion Rising global day of action and dance with more than 40 events at museums, parks, stores and in the streets. This is actor Ezra Miller at an action in Times Square.
Ezra Miller: “All revolutionary causes should start with addressing misogyny. It comes down to a day-to-day acknowledgment of gender dynamics in our society and a slow but steady work to change those dynamics.”
Ezra Miller is an actor best known for his roles in the films, “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” and “We Need to Talk About Kevin,” as well as the hit TV series “Californication.”
Today marks the 10th anniversary of the historic wave of global protests against the war in Iraq. Tens of millions of people took to the streets in hundreds of cities around the world to say no to war. The BBC said the protest in London was the largest in the capital’s political history. Protest sites included Australia, Johannesburg, Tel Aviv, Syria, Tokyo, Bangladesh, South Korea, Hong Kong, Thailand, Puerto Rico, Brazil, East Timor, India, and even the South Pole. At least half a million rallied in New York City alone 10 years ago. The U.S.-led invasion of Iraq would begin just over a month later.