Sunday, February 2, 2014



Report: Road Project That Symbolized U.S. Success in Afghanistan Is Falling Apart

In news from Afghanistan, a $4 billion road network once touted as a symbol of U.S. accomplishment is now falling apart. According to The Washington Post, sections of the road have become death traps riddled with craters and crumbling pavement. The United States has refused to fund road maintenance in Afghanistan since 2012 due to a lack of faith in the country’s abilities. Despite those concerns — and the list of gruesome injuries attributed to the current road network — the United States is continuing to build new roads in Afghanistan, at a cost of millions of dollars.

Navy Expert on Cyberweapons Tapped to Lead NSA

The Obama administration has announced it will nominate Vice Admiral Michael Rogers to become the new head of the National Security Agency. Rogers is an expert on cyberweapons who leads the Navy’s Cyber Command and previously served as intelligence director for the Joint Chiefs of Staff. If confirmed by the Senate, he will replace General Keith Alexander, who is retiring. Rogers would also lead the new Pentagon unit in charge of offensive cyber-operations, despite recommendations by a presidential advisory panel to separate the two posts.

State Dept. Report Said to Favor Keystone XL Oil Pipeline

The State Department is reportedly set to release an environmental impact study that will favor construction of the Keystone XL oil pipeline. The report, expected this afternoon, could help determine if President Obama will approve the pipeline, which would carry tar sands oil from Canada to Texas. An earlier State Department report that found the pipeline would have little impact on the climate was widely discredited by environmental groups and federal agencies.

Shell Drops Plans to Drill in the Arctic This Year

Shell has abandoned its plans to drill for oil off the coast of Alaska for this year after a court ruling cast doubt on its leases in the Chukchi Sea. Last week, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit said the government had inadequately assessed the drilling’s potential environmental impact. On Thursday, Shell’s CEO said "the lack of a clear path forward means that I am not prepared to commit further resources for drilling in Alaska in 2014." Shell had previously suspended its Arctic operations after a series of mishaps, including equipment failures and the grounding of a drill ship.

Latin American, Caribbean Leaders Declare "Peace Zone" in the Region

Latin American and Caribbean leaders have wrapped their annual summit of a regional grouping that excludes the United States and Canada. The Community of Latin American and Caribbean States held its first gathering last year as a counterweight to forums that exclude Cuba. Cuban President Raúl Castro touted the summit’s accomplishments.
President Raúl Castro: "We’ve reached important agreements on significant issues such as the announcement of a 'peace zone' in the region and the rules and norms for guaranteeing that intra- and extra-regional cooperation could bring tangible benefits to the community."

U.S. to Seek Death Penalty for Boston Marathon Bombing Suspect

The Justice Department has announced it will seek the death penalty for Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. Executions at the federal level are relatively rare, but Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement, "The nature of the conduct at issue and the resultant harm compel this decision." Tsarnaev is accused of plotting the attacks with his older brother, Tamerlan, who later died in a firefight with police.

California Democratic Rep. Henry Waxman to Leave Congress After 4 Decades

Democratic Rep. Henry Waxman of California has announced he will retire at the end of this session following four decades in the House of Representatives. Waxman played a lead role in shaping Obama’s healthcare law and has spearheaded key legislation on the environment, consumer protection and the funding of HIV and AIDS treatment. Women’s health activist Sandra Fluke, who became famous after she was barred from testifying at a hearing on contraception coverage, says she is "strongly considering running" for Waxman’s seat.

NYC Mayor de Blasio Drops Appeal of Stop-and-Frisk Ruling

In New York City, newly elected Mayor Bill de Blasio has announced the city will drop its appeal of a federal court ruling that found the New York City Police Department’s stop-and-frisk tactics unconstitutional. De Blasio said the city will accept reforms ordered by Judge Shira Scheindlin last August, including the appointment of a monitor to oversee changes.
Mayor Bill de Blasio: "We’re here today to turn the page on one of the most divisive problems in our city. We believe, in this administration — I think this reflects the values of the people of New York City broadly — we believe in one city, where everyone rises together. We believe in respecting every New Yorker’s rights, regardless of what neighborhood they live in or the color of their skin. And we believe in ending the overuse of stop-and-frisk that has unfairly targeted young African-American and Latino men."

Former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg Tapped for U.N. Post

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s predecessor, Michael Bloomberg, has reportedly been tapped to become U.N. special envoy for cities and climate change. Reuters reports U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon could make the announcement as early as today.

Protesters Demand Justice for Slain Transgender Woman Islan Nettles

A group of transgender women and their allies gathered outside New York City Police Department headquarters to demand justice for Islan Nettles. Nettles was a 21-year-old transgender woman of color who was taunted with anti-gay slurs and then beaten to death in Harlem last August. A suspect was arrested on assault charges, but the case against him was later dismissed. So far no one has been charged with murder in the case. Protesters accused police of mishandling the investigation.
Lourdes Ashley Hunter, Trans Women of Color Collective of Greater New York: "With Islan Nettles, she was beaten until she could move no more, outside of a police station. She was in a crux of three different police stations in a gentrified neighborhood of Harlem where 10 different cameras are not working. This goes beyond just brutality and discrimination and against transfolks. What about the safety of all New Yorkers? How could it be in the middle of Harlem and cameras don’t work? This could happen to anyone. If it happened to a white woman, would we be standing out here right here in the freezing cold fighting for justice six months later?"

Wage Hike for Federal Contractors to Exclude Disabled Workers

A minimum wage hike for federal contract workers unveiled by President Obama this week will exclude workers with disabilities. In These Times reports disability advocates were told Wednesday that Obama’s executive order will not apply to disabled workers who are employed through a special program that allows them to be paid sub-minimum wages. In a letter urging Obama to reconsider, the National Council on Disability wrote, "For workers with disabilities, equal rights, let alone a living wage, is still a dream deferred."

Report: Top GOP Advisers Helped Redskins Football Team with Bid to Keep Name

A new report has revealed the role of high-profile Republican advisers in the bid by the Washington Redskins football team to keep their controversial name. Native Americans and their allies have launched a campaign to change the name, which is based on a racial slur, but team owner Dan Snyder has vowed to keep it. On Thursday, ThinkProgress said it had obtained emails showing the team consulted with top Republican strategists about its public relations strategy, including former President George W. Bush’s press secretary Ari Fleischer, former Virginia governor and senator George Allen, and Republican pollster Frank Luntz.