- Created on 31 January 2013
In a ‘No Spin’ interview with General Colin Powell, Bill O’Reilly insinuated that Powell engaged in identity politics by voting for President Barack Obama. O’ Reilly claimed to be “perplexed” that Powell would vote for Obama when his economic policies have failed African-Americans. And that’s when the general called him out for passive racism.
- Created on 28 January 2013
(CNN) -- The emerging immigration reform plan from a group of bipartisan senators, set to be announced Monday, is the product of a months-long process that began after this November's election, which saw overwhelming Latino support for President Barack Obama.
A source familiar with the plan's development told CNN Monday that the process began right after the election with a call from Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham to Democrat Chuck Schumer, proposing they re-start their work on a comprehensive immigration bill that had broken down in 2010.
Those 2010 efforts drew fire from all sides, with the progressive publication The American Prospect at one point calling their plan "ridiculous" and GOP party committees in Graham's home state of South Carolina censuring him for his congressional votes on immigration. Talks eventually stalled.
In their November phone call, Graham told Schumer that fellow Republican Sen. John McCain also wanted to be involved this time. McCain was an early supporter of comprehensive immigration reform, but backed away from pushing a path to citizenship after his position hurt him with GOP primary voters during his run for president in 2008.
Soon after Schumer and Graham's conversation, a core group of six senators formed, meeting five times in Schumer and McCain's Capitol Hill offices. That group included Schumer, Graham and McCain, along with Republican Marco Rubio of Florida, and Democrats Robert Menendez of New Jersey and Dick Durbin of Illinois, the number two Democrat in the Senate.
Two other senators - Jeff Flake, R-Arizona, and Michael Bennet, D-Colorado - attended some of those meetings, but not all of them, and were the last to sign onto the proposal, which is set to be announced at a press conference Monday afternoon.
The eight lawmakers' proposal includes provisions for a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants already living in the United States, and guest worker and employment verification systems.
At their first meeting, the senators established a timetable for themselves: create a framework for immigration reform by the end of January, write the more detailed text of a bill by March, and pass the legislation in the Senate by the end of July.
That schedule would allow the Republican-controlled House of Representatives enough time to work through the bill so that President Barack Obama could sign it into law by the end of the year - avoiding any overlap with the 2014 midterm elections.
Debate on the measure in the House is still a far way off, though a spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner said Monday "The Speaker welcomes the work of leaders like Sen. Rubio on this issue, and is looking forward to learning more about the proposal in the coming days."
The Senate group's last meeting was January 23, which was followed by several days of working through certain details of the plan. On Sunday, Schumer called the president to tell him the group had created an immigration reform framework, and was planning to announce the measure on Monday.
That's one day ahead of Obama's own immigration push, slated to come during a speech in Las Vegas Tuesday. The source who provided the details of how the plan came about said the Senators timed their announcement to give the president's speech more "oomph."
The source also revealed that the White House has been working on its own immigration reform bill - an unusual move for the executive branch - that they were planning to ask Sen. Patrick Leahy to introduce in the Senate Judiciary Committee, which Leahy chairs.
The source said if the White House does push their own bill, it would only serve as a "fallback" to the bill pushed by the eight senators to make clear they have a "contingency plan" if the bipartisan process breaks down.
So what are the potential sticking points? The source pointed to still-unsettled items in the bipartisan framework released Monday, which lacked specific details on how border security would be bolstered and how a path to citizenship for immigrants already in the United States would work.
Senators still need to decide whether border security measures would be determined by boots on the ground or drones, or a combination of both, and whether any final decision would be subject to assessment by an administration official.
And on the path to citizenship, the senators must determine a compromise between the plan advanced by Rubio, which would not increase the number of permanent resident cards - often called "green cards" -- available, and the Democrats' preference, which would increase the number of permanent resident slots for the eleven million undocumented immigrants who are stuck waiting for legal status.
- Created on 26 January 2013
Heroic Newark, New Jersey mayor Cory Booker once again came to the rescue; this time, saving a freezing dog left on the doorstep by its owner, reports the Daily Mail.
“This is brutal weather, this dog is shaking really bad and you just can’t leave your dogs out here on a day like this and go away and expect them to be OK,’ Booker told an ABC news cr
- Created on 28 January 2013
Once again, Georgia lawmakers are trying to get a law passed to keep drivers from yakking on their cell phones while they drive.
Rep. Rahn Mayo, (D) of Decatur, who proposed law, aims to stop people from using cell phones while driving in the state, but would not limit drivers from hands-free devices, according to the Atlanta Business Chronicle.
"It's going to save lives," Mayo told the Chronicle.
Mayo has been in a two-year fight to collect enough votes in the House to move the bill over to the Senate. Mayo hopes the latest version of the bill will make it through the legislature and onto Governor Nathan Deal's desk.
The most recent Georgia driving law already restricts drivers who are 17 and younger from using cell phones completely while driving and bans adults from texting while driving.
- Created on 24 January 2013
(CNN) -- The U.S. military is dropping its longstanding exclusion of women from combat units, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced Thursday, calling it a recognition of the reality on the battlefield.
"The fact is, they have become an integral part of our ability to perform our mission, and for more than a decade of war they have demonstrated courage and skill and patriotism," Panetta told reporters at the Pentagon. American servicemen and women are already "fighting and they're dying together, and the time has come for our policies to recognize that reality."
Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, recounted a foray onto the streets of Baghdad as commander of an armored division in the early days of the war in Iraq.
"I slapped the turret gunner on the leg and I said, 'Who are you?' And she leaned down and said, I'm Amanda.' And I said, 'Ah, OK,' " Dempsey said.
"So, female turret-gunner protecting division commander. It's from that point on that I realized something had changed, and it was time to do something about it."
About 203,000 women are in the active-duty military, including 69 generals and admirals. Despite the official ban on combat, which dates back to 1994, women who served in Iraq and Afghanistan often found themselves engaged in firefights.
Women made up 67 of the nearly 3,500 Americans lost in hostile fire in Iraq and 33 of the 1,700-plus killed in combat in Afghanistan; more than 600 in Iraq and 300 in Afghanistan were wounded.
The Pentagon loosened the restrictions in 2012, and Panetta said the result "has been very positive."
"If members of our military can meet the qualifications for a job -- and let me be clear, I'm not talking about reducing the qualifications for the job -- if they can meet the qualifications for the job, then they should have the right to serve, regardless of creed or color or gender or sexual orientation" he said.
Dempsey said Thursday's announcement would be implemented "over time and with careful analysis." But he said the service chiefs were unanimous in their support for the move.
Officials told CNN on Wednesday that not every position will open all at once. Once the policy is changed, the Department of Defense will enter what is being called an "assessment phase," in which each branch of service will examine all its jobs and units not currently integrated and then produce a timetable for integrating them.
The Army and Marine Corps, especially, will be examining physical standards and gender-neutral accommodations within combat units. Every 90 days, the service chiefs will have to report on their progress.
Dempsey said the services can still recommend closing a particular specialty or unit to women -- but "They have to explain why, and I think there will be the right amount of scrutiny on that."
Earlier this month, the Army opened the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment to women, and it has begun recruiting female pilots and crew chiefs. The Navy has put its first female officers on submarines in the past year, and certain female ground troops have been attached to combat units in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The move is one of the last significant policy decisions made by Panetta, who is expected to leave in mid-February. It is not clear where former Sen. Chuck Hagel, the nominated replacement, stands, but officials say he was apprised of Panetta's announcement.
Panetta is setting the goal of January 2016 for all assessments to be complete and women to be integrated as much as possible, a senior defense official said Wednesday.
"It will take a while to work out the mechanics in some cases. We expect some jobs to open quickly, by the end of this year. Others, like special operations forces and infantry, may take longer," the official said.
But the announcement drew an early cheer from Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, who served in Iraq as an officer in her state's National Guard.
"The first two women who earned Silver Stars since World War II, one was a military police sergeant. Another was a medic," Gabbard told CNN ahead of Thursday's announcement. "And they both were operating on the front lines per se, under fire, under extreme duress, shoulder to shoulder with their male and female counterparts and exhibiting great courage and heroism and saving the lives of their brothers and sisters."
Sen. John McCain, an Arizona Republican who spent six years as a prisoner of war during the Vietnam War, said he supports lifting the ban on women serving in combat, pointing out women are already serving in harm's way. But he said the move should not fundamentally change the military.
"As this new rule is implemented, it is critical that we maintain the same high standards that have made the American military the most feared and admired fighting force in the world -- particularly the rigorous physical standards for our elite special forces units," McCain said in a statement Wednesday.
Gabbard said she agreed with McCain that physical standards shouldn't be compromised, but added, "If women are in an ability to meet those standards, they should be allowed to serve."
The Pentagon must notify Congress of each job or unit as it is sent up to the secretary to be opened to women. Then the Defense Department must wait 30 days while Congress is in session before implementing the change.
It is a marked difference from the way the military ended the exclusion of gays serving openly, or the "don't ask, don't tell" policy. In that case, there were no stipulations attached to openly gay service members. There was no staggered approach that integrated openly gay troops into units. It was instead done all at once, across the board.
The American Civil Liberties Union recently filed a federal lawsuit against the Department of Defense, charging that combat exclusion is unfair and outdated, harms America's safety and prevents women from receiving training and recognition for their work. The plaintiffs, who include women awarded Purple Hearts, say the exclusion places them at a disadvantage for promotion.
The ACLU said was thrilled with Panetta's announcement.
"But we welcome this statement with cautious optimism, as we hope that it will be implemented fairly and quickly so that servicewomen can receive the same recognition for their service as their male counterparts," Ariela Migdal, senior staff attorney with the ACLU Women's Rights Project, said in the statement.