Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) was refused a visa and prevented from boarding a flight in Dubai to Afghanistan on Friday, Afghan officials said. Rohrabacher has been critical of corruption in President Hamid Karzai’s government and has openly called for a more decentralized government in Afghanistan, which, according to the BBC, led Karzai to request that Rohrabacher be denied entry into the country:
Afghan officials told the BBC that in addition to his criticisms of the president, Mr Rohrabacher was being shunned because of meetings he had held in Berlin with Afghan politicians about the creation of a decentralised form of government.
According to our correspondent, Afghan officials view that as tantamount to interference in the country’s internal affairs.
“Anyone who speaks against the good of Afghanistan and tries to interfere in our internal affairs is ineligible for an Afghan visa,” one official told our correspondent.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton relayed Karzai’s message to Rohrabacher who, according to his spokesperson, obliged “out of respect.”
According to the Guardian, Rohrabacher “has been in discussion with Afghan leaders for several months about a less centralised form of government” and Afghan government officials in January criticized Rohrabacher for meeting with Afghan opposition leaders in Berlin.
According to a State Department cable released by Wikileaks, Rohrabacher as early as 2003 pushed Karzai to incorporate more warlords into his government, telling the Afghan president that he preferred “a federalist decentralization of power.” The Guardian reports that Rohrabacher “became personal friends with many of the commanders” fighting the Soviet Union in the 1980s.
Last June, Iraqi government officials kicked Rohrabacher out of Iraq after the Californian Republican said Iraq should repay the United States for the war President Bush started there in 2003. While members of his own party criticized him for the remarks, Rohrabacher remained unapologetic. “There?s nothing wrong with suggesting that the people who have benefited from our benevolence should consider repaying us for what we have given them,” he said.
With the NATO summit coming up next month in Chicago largely focusing on Afghanistan, one senior diplomat in Kabul said of the newest Rohrabacher incident: “This doesn’t look great.”
Former Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman slammed his party during an interview this weekend at the 92nd Street Y in New York City. He compared his party’s demand for purity and discipline to the Chinese Communist party, BuzzFeed reports, saying that Ronald Reagan would “likely not” be able to win the GOP nomination today.
He said he regrets taking such a hard line against tax increases, criticizing pledges like the one from anti-tax activist Grover Norquist that almost all Republican politicians sign. On his party’s foreign policy, Huntsman said, “I don?t know what world these people are living in.”
And Huntsman, who, during his presidential run, slammed his party’s denial of climate change and evolution, said this weekend, “I had to say I believe in science — and people on stage look at you quizzically as though [you were] an oddball.”
Appearing on MSNBC’s Morning Joe today, Huntsman downplayed much of his criticism and attempted to make nice. But when asked about presumed nominee Mitt Romney — whom the former ambassador once called “completely unelectable,” but has since endorsed — Huntsman couldn’t help but bring up the candidate’s flip flopping:
JOE SCARBOROUGH: What does Mitt Romney stand for? What’s his core conviction?
HUNTSMAN: Listen, [laughter] he’s talking about jobs. He’s talking about economic revitalization. And I think he’s been consistent on that theme. You can talk about the other back and forth, and flip-flopping and the other things. … If you’ve wrapped yourself up in too many pledges, that diminishes your ability to do what needs to be done in the final stretch to some extent.
Indeed, Huntsman and Romney have a long history of tension, and the former Utah governor has slammed some of the former Massachusetts governor’s positions as “out of touch,” “wrongheaded,” and “outlandish.”
The disappearance of mid-level jobs during the Great Recession, along with overall high unemployment, have made it hard for recent college graduates to find good jobs upon leaving school. More than 50 percent of college graduates under age 25 are either jobless or underemployed, according to an analysis from Drexel University and the Economic Policy Institute:
While there’s strong demand in science, education and health fields, arts and humanities flounder. Median wages for those with bachelor’s degrees are down from 2000, hit by technological changes that are eliminating midlevel jobs such as bank tellers. Most future job openings are projected to be in lower-skilled positions such as home health aides, who can provide personalized attention as the U.S. population ages.
Taking underemployment into consideration, the job prospects for bachelor’s degree holders fell last year to the lowest level in more than a decade.
Recent graduates are struggling to find mid- and high-level jobs upon graduating and are increasingly turning to jobs in restaurants and retail. As a result, median wages have dropped.
The high jobless and underemployment rate could have long-term consequences for the American economy. Total student loan debt surpassed $1 trillion this year, and the rate of delinquency on those loans is already disturbingly high. Though college graduates earn significantly more than workers with only a high school diploma, the inability of college graduates to find adequate employment could drive those delinquencies even higher. Worse yet, it could plague more workers with life-long debt, preventing them from forming new households or purchasing more consumer goods.
Sarah Bufkin, a former intern for ThinkProgress, filed this report from Fayetteville, North Carolina
Three years ago, North Carolina enacted the the Racial Justice Act, which enables death row inmates to challenge their death sentence if race played a substantive factor in ?decisions to seek or impose the sentence of death in the county, the prosecutorial district, the judicial division, or the State at the time the death sentence was sought or imposed.? Thus, an inmate will receive life in prison — as opposed to execution — if there is a pattern of race discrimination in the area where they were convicted, even if they cannot show that they were personally sentenced to die because of their race.
On Friday, Judge Greg Weeks became the first judge to apply this law — commuting the sentence of death-row inmate Marcus Robinson to life without parole after finding that race unfairly tainted the state?s jury selection processes over a 20-year period and in Robinson?s own case. “Race was a materially, practically and statistically significant factor in the decision to exercise preemptory challenges during jury selection,? Judge Weeks told a packed courtroom in Fayetteville, NC after two months of deliberation (“preemptory challenges” refer to a prosecutor or defense attorney’s ability to remove jurors from a jury).
Week’s 167-page decision sets a new precedent for approaching race in criminal justice system by allowing defendants to rely on statistical evidence in making their claims. Prosecutors have indicated they will appeal the ruling within the prescribed 60-day time window.
In arguing his case, Robinson relied primarily on a study done by researchers at Michigan State University in order to demonstrate that race had acted as a statistically significant factor in state prosecutors? exercise of peremptory strikes in capital cases around the time of his sentencing. Looking at the unadjusted data from strike decisions made in 173 capital cases, the MSU researchers found that nonwhite potential jurors were more than twice as likely to be stricken than their white counterparts in North Carolina. The chance of such a racial disparity occurring in a race-neutral environment is less than one in ten trillion, a figure that Weeks described as ?staggering.?
Prosecutors attempted to rebut Robinson?s case by attacking the validity of relying on statistical modeling in the jury selection process, given its complexity. ?Number and statistics are not enough,? argued Assistant District Attorney Cal Colyer in his Feb. 15 closing argument. ?They are just not enough?Defense attorneys take folks off of juries who are pro-death penalty, and that?s not based upon race. The state takes folks off of juries who are against the death penalty, and that?s not based upon race. It?s based upon answers to questions, attitudes, opinions and beliefs.?
But the MSU study, which Weeks found to be a ?valid, highly reliable, statistical study,? also adjusted the raw data to account for explanatory factors such as death-penalty prohibitions. The salient racial disparities remained.
In fact, Weeks concluded that the state?s case was not only insufficient to rebut Robinson?s evidence, but that ?in many instances it advanced and strengthened that evidence.? Prosecutors in many instances intentionally discriminated against black venire members, the court found.
Weeks also stressed that Friday?s decision was not about Robinson?s actions or even the composition of the jury that sentenced him to death; instead, it and the Racial Justice Act more widely aim to uphold the integrity of the criminal justice system. That mandate is now under review at the NC General Assembly, however, where legislators are holding committee meetings to debate potential revisions to the statute after failing to repeal it over Gov. Bev Perdue?s veto last December. Regardless, Robinson?s case marks an important turn in the national conversation over race and the death penalty?and ?should serve as a clear signal of the need for reform in criminal proceedings,? according to Weeks.
?It is the hope of this Court,? he said, ?that we now are at the beginning of the end of the struggle to end racial discrimination in our justice system.?
As the British government prepares to advance marriage equality, an Anglican bishop condemned religious leaders on Saturday who speak out against same-sex marriage, comparing their anti-gay rhetoric to the Church’s support of slavery as “God-given” in the 18th century.
?Experience might lead us to be cautious about the certainty with which moral positions are built with Biblical support,” Rt Rev Nicholas Holtam, the Bishop of Salisbury, said. ?Before Wilberforce, Christians in this country saw slavery as having Biblical support for what was the God-given in the ordering of creation”:
?In South Africa, Apartheid was seen in the same way by the Dutch Reformed Church. ?Within the churches, Christians conscientiously disagree about the interpretation and significance of the six Biblical passages referring to homosexuality.? [...]
?Most people now see the Church?s avoidance of equality legislation as immoral and it undermines us,? he told the conference, organised by the Cutting Edge Consortium, a coalition of national bodies campaigning for sexual equality in religious organisations.
The bishop added: ?It is a disaster that we have allowed the Church to be seen as the opposition to equal marriage.? He argued that by opposing the measure the Church had prompted the Government to create a ?very disturbing? distinction between ?religious? and ?civil? marriage. ?Some Christians might like to say there are more important issues than gay marriage but we are not connecting with our society and for the churches this should be a mission priority,? he said.
Holtam made his comments just days after the Archbishop of Wales embraced marriage equality and called on the Church to welcome “all life-long committed relationships.”
A group of Anglicans have written a letter calling on the Church to embrace marriage equality. “We believe the Church has nothing to fear from… civil marriage for same-sex couples,” it says. “It will be for the churches to then decide how they respond pastorally.”
Don't get too excited out there, Marco
The Mittstakes march on:
Mitt Romney may no longer face any serious opposition on his way to the GOP presidential nod.This event was scheduled when Rick Santorum was still in the race, but it's notable that Romney decided to keep it on the schedule. Clearly, he's giving Marco Rubio a shot on the trail, just like he did with Paul Ryan in Wisconsin.
But as he campaigns across the Keystone State ahead of its Tuesday primary, a different contest is coming into focus ? the race to serve as the former Massachusetts governor?s running mate.
This afternoon, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) becomes the first potential VP pick to campaign alongside Romney since former senator Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) bowed out of the race earlier this month. Romney and Rubio will appear at a town hall in Aston, Pa., just outside Philadelphia at 1 p.m. Eastern time.
Both Ryan and Rubio are on the same page as Mitt Romney on all the major issues, though in Rubio's case the fact that he is Cuban-American has given some Republicans hope that he might be able to help Romney with his difficulty attracting Latino voters. Beyond his ethnicity, however, it's not clear why Rubio would boost Romney's prospects. Sure, he hasn't embraced Romney's fiery rhetoric, such as calling Arizona a model for state immigration policy, but substantively, Rubio supports Arizona's "Paper's Please" law and opposes a path to citizenship through the DREAM Act?just like Mitt Romney.
But if Romney is looking for someone who is telegenic and more charismatic than he is?as well as someone who excites conservatives?Rubio fits the bill. And not just because his name isn't Rob Portman.
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The only thing the Obama Administration did [with regard to Osama Bin Laden] was get out of the way. - John Bolton
When I heard Bolton say this I wanted to punch the television set, but after reading Chris Mooney's new book, The Republican Brain, I decided instead to chalk up this bit of intellectually dishonest tripe between Liz Cheney (in for Sean Hannity) and John Bolton to the Fox News mission of feeding the misinformation chain True Republican Believers depend upon to cling to their incorrect beliefs.
Still, it's galling to have them try to not only rewrite the Obama Administration's approach to foreign policy but to claim that torture, or "enhanced interrogation" in Cheneyspeak, was the reason Osama bin Laden was caught and killed.
On the night of April 28, 2011, Obama held a top-secret meeting with his closest national security aides to discuss how to proceed. The CIA had earlier informed Obama that its analysts had concluded there was a 60 to 80 percent certainty that Bin Laden was in the Abbottabad compound. But the agency had conducted a red team exercise, in which a set of analysts who had not previously worked on this case evaluated the intelligence. This group ended up with lower odds: 40 to 60 percent.
Several of Obama's national security advisers were worried by the red team results. Michael Leiter, the chief of the National Counterterrorism Center, believed the CIA had inflated the case. And when the president went around the horn and asked for recommendations, both Vice President Joe Biden and Defense Secretary Bob Gates counseled waiting for more definitive intelligence. Other advisers in the room opted for a missile strike (which would be less risky but could yield a less definitive outcome and cause collateral damage). Leon Panetta, then the CIA chief, and John Brennan, Obama's chief counterterrorism adviser, backed the proposed helicopter raid. Such an operation, though, was not supported by a majority of Obama's advisers. Everyone in the room knew that much could wrong with such an operation. (Gates had lived through Black Hawk Down and the failed Desert One rescue attempt during the Iranian hostage crisis during the Carter administration.) And they also realized?though it was not explicitly discussed?that if the Bin Laden mission went bad, it would probably sink Obama's presidency. Nevertheless, the next day, Obama greenlighted the raid.
As for the idea that "enhanced interrogation" aka torture had anything to do with the intelligence, Corn debunks that quite properly in his book, too, but I wouldn't expect Cheney & Co to care much about that. I am, however, a bit surprised they've chosen to ignore the military's declaration that torture had nothing to do with it.
So Liz Cheney, here's my response to your rather arrogant suggestion that President Obama should bow before you and express his deep and undying gratitude to former President George W. Bush and your criminal father and thank them: No thanks are necessary.
It just galls me that they get away with this BS on national television. Truth is a dinosaur; now it's just about perception and partisans. Disgusting.