Reuters reports that a three-year-long investigation by Senate Intelligence Committee Democrats into the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” (i.e. torture) is expected to find little evidence that such techniques produced counter-terrorism breakthroughs. Sources familiar with the inquiry say that committee investigators have found little substantiation for the claims by some Bush supporters that “enhanced interrogation” produced valuable intelligence. One official told Reuters that there was “no evidence” that such interrogation techniques played “any significant role” in the intelligence operations leading to the discover and killing of Osama bin Laden last May.
With the nation’s unemployment rate still above eight percent, millions of Americans are looking for work, and the country’s biggest corporations are hiring. According to a new report from the Wall Street Journal, however, many of those corporations are adding jobs overseas at a faster pace than they are at home. Even worse, others are cutting their domestic workforces while adding jobs in other countries at a rapid pace:
Those companies, which include Wal-Mart Stores Inc., WMT +2.70% International Paper Co., Honeywell International Inc. and United Parcel Service Inc., boosted their employment at home by 3.1%, or 113,000 jobs, between 2009 and 2011, the same rate of increase as the nation’s other employers. But they also added more than 333,000 jobs in their far-flung?and faster-growing? foreign operations.
The companies included in the analysis were the largest of those that disclose their U.S. and non-U.S. employment in annual securities filings. All of them have at least 50,000 employees. Collectively, they employed roughly 6.4 million workers world-wide last year, up 7.7% from two years earlier. Over the same period, the total number of U.S. jobs increased 3.1%, according to the Labor Department.
Many of the companies are adding jobs in the U.S. but adding even more overseas — reversing a trend from a decade ago in which they were outsourcing American jobs to other countries. But some companies, like Wal-Mart, have boosted overseas employment while maintaining flat job growth in the U.S., and others, like UPS, have slashed jobs at home even while adding them in other countries:
A similar Wall Street Journal report last April found that America’s largest multinational corporations outsourced more than 2.4 million jobs over the last decade, even as they cut their overall workforces by 2.9 million.
President Obama has proposed a tax credit to encourage businesses to bring jobs from overseas back to the United States in order to relieve high unemployment and boost economic growth. Republicans and corporations, meanwhile, have blamed outsourcing on high taxes, even though corporations pay less in America than they would in most of the developed world.
– A cyber security bill to broaden information sharing between companies and the government passed the House yesterday 248 to 168, setting up a clash with the White House, which promised to veto the bill for failing to ensure privacy.
– The Syrian government is “clearly” not meeting its obligations under a ceasefire brokered by United Nations special envoy Kofi Annan, said Michael Mann, a spokesman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton.
– Syrian opposition sources said there are “several countries that are talking frequently behind closed doors” in the Middle East about supplying the rebels with arms as a U.N.-brokered ceasefire faltered amid continuing civilian deaths at the hands of the Assad regime.
– In a show of force, the Taliban insurgency closed or restricted about 50 schools in southeastern Afghanistan, flexing their muscles in response to a motorcycle ban designed to prevent mobile attacks.
– Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said yesterday that the chances “appear low” that the Iranian government would bow to international pressure to stop its nuclear program, a view which contradicts statements from Israeli military chief Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz earlier this week that economic and diplomatic pressures on Iran were beginning to succeed.
– Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta told the AFP that he hoped Gantz was “correct” in assessing the Iranian regime was rational and hoped “that because of the leadership of the United States, the international community and the leadership of Israel, they can make the right decision.”
– The U.S. and Japan have reached an agreement that will reduce the number of U.S. Marines on Okinawa by 9,000 and begin returning land to the government there.
– The arraignment for Khalid Sheikh Mohammad and the alleged co-conspirators of the 9/11 attacks will be broadcast by closed-circuit television to eight sites in the eastern United States, a military judge ruled Thursday.
Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) poured cold water on talk of Sen. Marco Rubio’s (R-FL) watered-down DREAM Act proposal, saying he doubts it could pass the GOP House.
New data released by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives shows that 70 percent of guns found in Mexico originate from the United States. Supporters of stricter gun regulations say those numbers reflect the unintended influence of the United States on Mexico?s devastating drug violence.
Today, the Republican-controlled House will vote to extend lower interest rates for college loans for at least another year, proposing to pay for the extension by cutting $6 billion from a preventive heath care fund created by the Affordable Care Act.
George Zimmerman has raised $200,000 for his legal fees from his website. The shooter in the Trayvon Martin scandal’s bail was set at $150,000, and he paid only ten percent of that. But Zimmerman’s lawyer said on CNN last night that the bail may have been higher had the judge known about the money raised from his website.
The U.S. economy grew 2.2 percent in the first quarter of 2012, according to the latest data from the Commerce Department. The growth was lower than expected — analysts had pegged growth at 2.5 percent. Growth dropped from the last quarter of 2011, when the economy expanded 2.8 percent.
The House passed a cyber security bill last night that the president has said he would veto. The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) is aimed at helping businesses deal with cyber security threats through information sharing, but opponents of the bill, including Obama, warn that it intrudes on personal privacy.
Lawmakers from both parties are now raising the possibility that, with little expected to get done on Capitol Hill before the November election, most major issues will have to be punted on until 2013. ?I?ve been through a lot of lame ducks, and you really can?t do [everything that needs to be done] just in a lame duck,? said Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT).
After maxing-out to presidential campaigns, big donors are moving to support allied Super PACs where they can give unlimited amounts of money. It’s just another indication of how the new groups are fundamentally changing the nature of politics.
The Pentagon and CIA do not have to release photos and videos from last year’s raid of Osama bin Laden’s Pakistani compound after a federal judge sided with the Obama administration on a lawsuit brought against those agencies.
And finally: Comedienne Amy Poehler is known for impression of Hillary Clinton on Saturday Night Live and her “Parks and Recreations” character’s infatuation with the secretary of state, and last night, Poehler’s Clinton earned an endorsement from the real thing. ?You do me better than me,” Clinton said to Poehler impression.
by Francesco Femia & Caitlin Werrell, via The Center for Climate and Security
The world is suddenly paying attention to the oft-ignored North African country of Mali, as it is racked by its most recent in a long string of crises: a coup d?etat. This political and constitutional crisis sits atop an already extremely vulnerable situation ? a volatile mix of climate change, drought, food shortages, migration and immobility, armed insurrection and heavy weapons proliferation that threaten to plunge the country into a state of instability not unlike Somalia. As the international community, including the UN Security Council, moves to act on this crisis, it will be important to consider all the identifiable sources of Mali?s insecurity in order to get the solutions right.
From model to mayhem?
Mali has been described by some as a benchmark country in Africa, where democracy had put down healthy roots over the past two decades. Yet on March 21, a military junta seized control of the government in Timbuktu, ousting the democratically-elected President Amadou Toumani Toure from power. The rationale, according to military spokespersons, was that the government had failed to put a lid on the separatist Tuareg rebellion in the north (a situation we covered in a previous blog.) Soon after, on April 4, the UNSC issued a strongly-worded Presidential statement condemning the coup, and urging military leaders to restore power to civilian control. Since then, the coup leaders have committed to a framework agreement ?for the restoration of constitutional order in Mali,? but a positive outcome remains uncertain.
Insecurities under the surface
Despite some previous descriptions of Mali as a success story, significant tensions were seething under the surface all along. The coup came amidst a backdrop of a series of old, perennial insecurities in Mali, and recent ones created by rapid political changes in North Africa.
The first is the aforementioned armed rebellion led by nomadic Tuareg tribesmen, which has been calling for separation from the south for over two decades. In October of last year, these militants formed the the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), and proceeded to violently wrest control of a significant swathe of northeastern Mali, with no signs of slowing down. A few weeks following the coup, the Tuareg managed to seize the ?major garrison towns city of Kidal, Gao and Timbuktu,? prompting a chastened Malian military leadership to promise a handover to civilian control once elections could be held. As of today, the Tuareg control most of the country?s northern territory.
The second is the recent arrival of the Algerian Salafist offshoot, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), onto the Mali political scene. On April 4, the UN Security Council expressed serious concern about this entity, warning that Islamist extremists from AQIM and the Tuareg could take advantage of the instability caused by the coup to sow further chaos and advance sharia law.
The third is the result of the recent political instability and revolutionary changes in both Libya and Côte d?Ivoire. As highlighted by the Economist, these changes have led to both a proliferation of heavy weapons from Libya into Mali, and an exodus of Malians who once lived and worked in Libya and Côte d?Ivoire back to their home country. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the latter phenomenon has led to a severance of remittances for the families of emigrants, who relied on that money to sustain themselves, thus creating an atmosphere of desperation for both returnees and their families. Furthermore, as Libya?s recently-deposed ruler Muammar Gaddafi had given refuge to Tuareg militants, many of them have fled back to Mali, adding fuel to the separatist fire.
A fourth insecurity is the extended drought in Mali and the broader Western Sahel, which looms over all of the above, threatening to multiply the security and humanitarian breakdown even further.
Drought, climate change and immobility
Though much of the world wasn?t paying attention to Mali before the coup, the humanitarian community was. Late last year, organizations such as Oxfam warned of a drought in Mali, similar to the one that has plagued countries in the Horn of Africa, and the Middle East. Concerns were raised over the lack of international support for the country because of fatigue over massive humanitarian relief efforts in the Horn ? particularly Somalia. The drought has proceeded apace, driving hundreds of thousands of Malians away from drought-stricken villages between February and March, according to the UN. And though the humanitarian community did an outstanding job of preparing for the drought, through early-warning and well-coordination preparation, they could not have been prepared for the rapid deterioration of the country?s political condition.
Enter climate change. Security analysts often refer to climate change as a ?threat multiplier? or ?accelerant of instability? ? a phenomenon that exacerbates a range of existing problems. Mali is a textbook case of this. As we mentioned recently in another piece on the Sahel, and as highlighted in a recent report by Michael Werz and Laura Conley at the Center for American Progress, climate change has been identified as a probable factor in the recent drought:
According to at least six studies of this phenomenon, highlighted by UNEP in 2006 (see page 3), ?the second half of the 20th century has witnessed a dramatic reduction in mean annual rainfall throughout the region.? A 2005 NOAA report attributed the low rainfall to changes in sea surface temperature (likely caused by a combination of natural variability and human-induced change), and both a NOAA study in 2006, and another by Shanahan et al in 2009, attributed drought in the West African Sahel to the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation, which is responsive to sea surface temperature changes.
And though influxes of migrants from nearby states are raising tensions, the drought also threatens to worsen the less-explored phenomenon of ?trapped populations? in Mali. Given that Mali is one of the poorest countries in the world, many of its people neither have the money, nor the connections, to freely move either within, or out of, the country. According to geographer Dave Thomas at Oxford University, ?The people we should really be thinking about are?those who stay behind, who may wish to migrate but can?t?They are trapped, they are the most vulnerable.? Though it is of course important to address the concerns of both refugees and the immobile, this is an important and often overlooked problem in Mali and elsewhere, and drought can quickly lead to famine for these trapped populations (we previously discussed this phenomenon in an article titled: ?No Way Out: Climate Change and Immobility?).
Focusing solutions on all identifiable drivers of unrest
Mali is an example of where the humanitarian community was prepared to deal with the predictable, but could not have prepared for the unpredictable ? the rapid collapse of the country?s government and the subsequent advance of the Tuareg insurgents. This kind of uncertainty will probably never go away. However, a number of the drivers of instability in Mali, such as certain long-standing political grievances, the free flow of heavy weapons and international terrorist organizations, drought and the climatic changes that exacerbate that drought, can now be identified with a reasonably high degree of certainty. These should be the focus of national, regional and international efforts to resolve the conflict in Mali, reconstruct its institutions of government, and improve the security and resilience of its population.
Francesco Femia and Caitlin Werrell are Founding Directors of the Center for Climate and Security. This piece was originally published at The Center for Climate and Security and was re-printed with permission.
In 2001, Robert Spitzer — a prominent psychiatrist who led the charge to declassify homosexuality as a mental condition — released a controversial study showing that some gay people could change their sexual orientations and become straight. Spitzer?s findings bolstered the ex-gay movement and helped advocates find acceptance in the heart of conservative anti-gay politics. But earlier this month, the 80-year-old scientist dealt a devastating blow to his loudest proponents. In an interview with The American Prospect, Spitzer retracted his own ex-gay study, noting that ?The findings can be considered evidence for what those who have undergone ex-gay therapy say about it, but nothing more.?
Last night, Rachel Maddow examined the consequences of Spitzer’s denunciation of his own reparative therapy study on the Proposition 8 case, which relied on its conclusions to argue that gay people are not entitled to marry someone of the same gender because sexual orientation is a mutable characteristic. NYU constitutional professor Kenji Yoshino explained the significance:
YOSHINO: I think it`s a big deal. So, first of all, the reason immutability is important is because under the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment, there’s a standard called heightened scrutiny. And there are certain classifications like race, national origin, sex, nonmarital parentage, lineage (ph) that get that scrutiny. The $64,000 question of this case is whether or not sexual orientation is going to be added to that list. And one of the criteria that`s been looked at to determine whether or not a group gets heightened scrutiny is immutability, as you mentioned. So, the fact that Spitzer retracting this and the fact that the testimony in the Prop 8 trial was overwhelming for the fact that sexual orientation is very hard to change could figure into that analysis.
Yoshino also suggested that Spitzer’s apology could impact Defense of Marriage (DOMA) litigation, which relies on a similar gays-can-change claim.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) is obsessed with drugs. Since coming into office, he signed a law requiring welfare recipients to undergo drug tests — a law that was subsequently halted by a federal court — and he issued an executive order mandating random drug tests for state employees. This executive order has now been declared unconstitutional by a George H.W. Bush-appointed judge:
Miami U.S. District Judge Ursula Ungaro Thursday morning ruling that random, suspicionless testing of some 85,000 workers violates the Fourth Amendment ban on unreasonable searches and seizures also raises doubts about a new state law quietly signed by Scott this spring allowing the governor?s agency heads to require urine tests of new and existing workers.
?To be reasonable under the Fourth Amendment, a search ordinarily must be based on individualized suspicion of wrongdoing,? Ungaro wrote in her order issued this morning, citing previous U.S. Supreme Court orders which decided that urine tests are considered government searches.
Judge Ungaro’s decision should not be controversial. As she correctly notes, “suspicionless” searches of people who are not individually suspected of committed a crime are rarely acceptable under the Constitution. Nevertheless, these kinds of unconstitutional bills have become the darling of many conservative lawmakers. Rep. Jack Kingston (R-GA) proposed forcing the unemployed to undergo drug tests in order to receive benefits, and Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (R) signed a similar drug testing law in his state.
It’s important to note that these drug testing laws are not just unconstitutional, they are also completely unnecessary. Only one percent of Florida workers who took drug tests tested positive, and only two percent of state welfare recipients subject to Scott’s other drug testing law failed their drug tests.
Yet, while these tests are both unconstitutional and a solution in search of a problem, there is still some risk that they could be upheld by an increasingly partisan Supreme Court. Current law is clear that these drug laws are unconstitutional, but the Constitution even more conclusively favors the Affordable Care Act. If the justices are willing to put partisan politics ahead of the law and strike down President Obama’s signature accomplishment, there is good reason to fear they will again put politics before the law if Rick Scott’s drug tests come before them.
Ah, the fearful fundamentalists are so unhinged by social change related to the legal recognition of same sex couples that we can find plentiful examples of them showing their @ss in public.[...]
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Four days before the anniversary of the raid on Osama bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, a new video from the Obama campaign focusing on the presidential decision-making that was critical to the mission's success:
The video then contrasts Obama's decisive leadership with Mitt Romney's blasé attitude towards bringing bin Laden to justice. "Which path would Mitt Romney have taken?" the video asks before transitioning to a quote from an August, 2007 article about Romney's criticism of Obama's willingness to strike targets inside Pakistan without or without the Pakistani government's assistance. Next, a quote from Mitt Romney himself: "It's not worth moving heaven and earth spending billions of dollars just trying to catch one person."
The video closes by returning to President Obama's decision. "He had to decide," President Clinton says. "And that's what you hire the president to do. You hire a president to make the calls when no one else can do it."
At just under 90 seconds, this isn't a video we're going to see on air as a television ad in its entirety, but you can imagine at least three different types of spots that could be made from it next fall: a purely positive ad focused on President Obama's decisiveness despite the political risks; a purely negative one chronicling Romney's well-documented opposition to the path President Obama took; and a contrast spot, comparing the two.
This won't be an issue Republicans will want to talk about. They'll claim that it's absurd to raise questions about what Mitt Romney would have done, arguing that any president would have done the same thing. But that's not true, according to Mitt Romney himself?in his own words.
And this wasn't an easy call, it came with plenty of political risk, yet President Obama made it because it was the right thing to do. The fact that Romney allies like Karl Rove have resorted to lying about that fact is a big clue to how weak they think their position really is.
Republicans will also claim that the only reason President Obama finally brought bin Laden to justice is that he embraced Bush's philosophy on the war on terror. You know, like killing bin Laden and ending the war in Iraq. Which is almost exactly the same as what Bush did ... if Bush had been smart enough to embrace Barack Obama's approach.