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Bush and C.I.A. Ex-Officials Rebut Torture Report

Bush and C.I.A. Ex-Officials Rebut Torture Report

 A long-awaited Senate report condemning torture by the Central Intelligence Agency has not even been made public yet, but former President George W. Bush’s team has decided to link arms with former intelligence officials and challenge its conclusions.

The report is said to assert that the C.I.A. misled Mr. Bush and his White House about the nature, extent and results of brutal techniques like waterboarding, and some of his former administration officials privately suggested seizing on that to distance themselves from the controversial program, according to people involved in the discussion. But Mr. Bush and his closest advisers decided that “we’re going to want to stand behind these guys,” as one former official put it.

Mr. Bush made that clear in an interview broadcast on Sunday. “We’re fortunate to have men and women who work hard at the C.I.A. serving on our behalf,” he told CNN’s Candy Crowley. “These are patriots and whatever the report says, if it diminishes their contributions to our country, it is way off base.”

These are “really good people and we’re lucky as a nation to have them,” he said.

Former intelligence officials, seeking allies against the potentially damaging report, have privately reassured the Bush team in recent days that they did not deceive them and have lobbied the former president’s advisers to speak out publicly on their behalf. The defense of the program has been organized by former C.I.A. leaders like George J. Tenet and Gen. Michael V. Hayden, two former directors, and John E. McLaughlin, a former deputy C.I.A. director who also served as acting director.

“Once the release occurs, we’ll have things to say and will be making some documents available that bear on the case,” Mr. McLaughlin said Sunday. Although he could not discuss details because of a nondisclosure agreement, in general he said the report “uses information selectively, often distorts to make its points, and as I recall contains no recommendations.”

General Hayden added that the former C.I.A. team objected to the Senate’s characterization of their efforts. “We’re not here to defend torture,” he said by email on Sunday. “We’re here to defend history.”

Poll: Race relations have worsened under Obama

Race relations worse under Obama

Poll: Race relations have worsened under Obama

By Charles Hoskinson

Most Americans think relations between white and black communities have gotten worse since President Obama was elected, according to a new Bloomberg Politics poll.

The poll released Sunday also revealed deep racial divides on recent decisions by grand juries in St. Louis County, Mo., and New York City declining to indict police officers in the deaths of unarmed black men.

In the Dec. 3-5 poll of 1,001 adults, 53 percent said race relations had gotten worse since Obama, the nation's first black president, took office in 2009. That figure included 56 percent of white respondents and 45 percent of black respondents.

Only 9 percent of respondents said race relations had gotten better under Obama, including just 3 percent who said they had gotten a lot better. Thirty-six percent said relations had stayed about the same.

Admire Kobe Bryant’s skills while you can

Lakers guard Kobe Bryant likely won't match Michael Jordan’s haul of six NBA championship rings, but he will pass Jordan for third on the league’s all-time scoring list very soon. Mark L. Baer-USA TODAY Sports

Admire Kobe Bryant’s skills while you can

By Christopher L. Gasper

Like most misunderstood and underappreciated artists, Kobe Bryant will be remembered more fondly when he is gone.

Years from now, basketball historians should look back in bewilderment that Bryant won only one NBA MVP award and Steve Nash, Bryant’s injured teammate, won two.

Make no mistake, Kobe Bean Bryant is an artiste. His canvas is 94 feet by 50 feet. His work is polarizing. He can be temperamental and enigmatic and tends to see the world through only his lens. Love him or hate him, appreciate the artist known as Kobe while you still can.

Now in his, gulp, 19th season and rounding the final corner of his career, the 36-year-old Bryant made what will likely be one of his final appearances in Boston on Friday night as the Celtics hosted the Los Angeles Lakers at TD Garden.

Kobe left here a 113-96 loser, his 22 points on 9-of-21 shooting not nearly enough to offset the inexperience, ineffectiveness, and apathy of this edition of the Lakers.

You had to feel bad for Bryant considering the squad of basketball bystanders the Lakers have surrounded him with in the winter of his career. Lakers coach Byron Scott said his team looked “disinterested in playing.”

Former CIA Director Braces for 'Torture Report'

Former CIA Director Braces for 'Torture Report'

Allen McDuffee

Anticipating a Tuesday release of a report from the Senate Intelligence Committee, Michael Hayden said it's is as if the agency "has been tried and convicted in absentia."

Former Central Intelligence Agency director Michael Hayden on Sunday rejected accusations that the agency lied about its use of so-called enhanced interrogation techniques just ahead of the release of the much anticipated "torture report" prepared by the Senate Intelligence Committee, which is expected Tuesday. Hayden also asserted that not only are the report's conclusions not true, but releasing it could be used as justification by terrorist organizations to attack U.S. personnel and facilities abroad, if released.

"To say that we relentlessly over an expanded period of time lied to everyone about a program that wasn't doing any good, that beggars the imagination," said Hayden on CBS' Face The Nation.

The report, which was only approved by the committee's Democrats (Republicans on the committee say they plan to release their own report), concludes that the CIA routinely exceeded legally allowable techniques to get information from detainees and that the techniques were not effective in obtaining it. Yet, the agency systematically lied to the White House, Congress and the Department of Justice about its efficacy in order to continue its operations.  

Still, Hayden, who headed the CIA for the final years of the Bush administration, said he studied the program when he took over in 2006 and was unwilling to end it. "At the end of the summer I recommended to President Bush that we reduce the program, that we reduce the number of techniques, but that the program had been so valuable that we couldn't stop it altogether," he said. "Even though now we had so much more intelligence on al-Qaeda from the detainees and other sources, even then the program had proven its conscience, I couldn't take it off the table."

Dianne Feinstein leaving intelligence job amid clash on tactics report

Dianne Feinstein

Dianne Feinstein leaving intelligence job amid clash on tactics report

As head of the Senate Intelligence Committee since 2009, Sen. Dianne Feinstein has spent hundreds of hours in secret briefings and seen thousands of pictures from battlefields in Syria, Iraq and Yemen. She keeps two images with her.

One shows a little girl wearing a gingham dress, white tights and black Mary Janes — but the girl's head is gone. Another is of a teenage boy, duct tape over his mouth, eyes bulging out, being forced to hold two severed heads.

"To me, it's what we are up against," Feinstein said in an interview. "It is a testament to pure evil."

The senior senator from California has spent more than 14 years on the Senate's most secretive committee, and through much of that time, she has defended the country's intelligence establishment.

She insisted that the National Security Agency was right to secretly collect data on huge numbers of telephone calls made by Americans. And she backed the CIA's covert use of Predator drones to conduct targeted killings in half a dozen nations.

But as she prepares to turn over the committee's gavel next month to Sen. Richard M. Burr (R-N.C.), Feinstein's tenure as chairwoman is closing amid an acrimonious fight over a project that pits her against the CIA. Her staff has completed a 6,000-page report evaluating and criticizing the agency's use during the George W. Bush years of harsh interrogation tactics, which President Obama and others have labeled as torture.

Since April, Feinstein has been fighting with the CIA and the White House to make public as much as possible of the report's 480-page executive summary.

In recent days, Feinstein and administration officials have resolved the final debates over how much will be blacked out of the public version of the report. Then on Friday, Secretary of State John F. Kerry, acting on behalf of the administration, called Feinstein to ask her to delay the release. Making the report public now would threaten the security of American personnel overseas, Kerry told her.

The request put Feinstein in an agonizingly difficult position — delay the release and run the risk that Burr and the Republicans will block the report after they take over in January, or go ahead and take the blame if Americans in foreign countries are harmed.

At the heart of the report is a review of 20 cases in which interrogators used brutality and inhumane treatment to produce what the CIA says was useful intelligence.

Leon E. Panetta, who served under Obama as CIA director from 2009 to 2011, wrote in his memoir, "Worthy Fights," that such methods should not have been used, but that the CIA got "critical intelligence" from them. "What we can't know — what we'll never know — is whether those were the only ways to elicit that information," Panetta wrote.

Hacked vs. Hackers: Game On

Hacked vs. Hackers: Game On

SAN FRANCISCO — Paul Kocher, one of the country’s leading cryptographers, says he thinks the explanation for the world’s dismal state of digital security may lie in two charts.

One shows the number of airplane deaths per miles flown, which decreased to one-thousandth of what it was in 1945 with the advent of the Federal Aviation Administration in 1958 and stricter security and maintenance protocols. The other, which details the number of new computer security threats, shows the opposite. There has been more than a 10,000-fold increase in the number of new digital threats over the last 12 years.

The problem, Mr. Kocher and security experts reason, is a lack of liability and urgency. The Internet is still largely held together with Band-Aid fixes. Computer security is not well regulated, even as enormous amounts of private, medical and financial data and the nation’s computerized critical infrastructure — oil pipelines, railroad tracks, water treatment facilities and the power grid — move online.

If a stunning number of airplanes in the United States crashed tomorrow, there would be investigations, lawsuits and a cutback in air travel, and the airlines’ stock prices would most likely plummet. That has not been true for hacking attacks, which surged 62 percent last year, according to the security company Symantec. As for long-term consequences, Home Depot, which suffered the worst security breach of any retailer in history this year, has seen its stock float to a high point.

In a speech two years ago, Leon E. Panetta, the former defense secretary, predicted it would take a “cyber-Pearl Harbor” — a crippling attack that would cause physical destruction and loss of life — to wake up the nation to the vulnerabilities in its computer systems.

No such attack has occurred. Nonetheless, at every level, there has been an awakening that the threats are real and growing worse, and that the prevailing “patch and pray” approach to computer security simply will not do.

So what happened?

The Wake-Up Call

A bleak recap: In the last two years, breaches have hit the White House, the State Department, the top federal intelligence agency, the largest American bank, the top hospital operator, energy companies, retailers and even the Postal Service. In nearly every case, by the time the victims noticed that hackers were inside their systems, their most sensitive government secrets, trade secrets and customer data had already left the building. And in just the last week Sony Pictures Entertainment had to take computer systems offline because of an aggressive attack on its network.

The impact on consumers has been vast. Last year, over 552 million people had their identities stolen, according to Symantec, and nearly 25,000 Americans had sensitive health information compromised — every day — according to the Department of Health and Human Services. Over half of Americans, including President Obama, had to have their credit cards replaced at least once because of a breach, according to the Ponemon Group, an independent research organization.

Kazuo Ishiguro: how I wrote The Remains of the Day in four weeks

Emma Thompson and Anthony Hopkins in the 1993 film adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro's Booker prize-winning novel The Remains of the Day.

Kazuo Ishiguro: how I wrote The Remains of the Day in four weeks

Kazuo Ishiguro

The author reveals how the Tom Waits song Ruby’s Arms served as inspiration for his Booker prize-winning classic novel

Many people have to work long hours. When it comes to the writing of novels, however, the consensus seems to be that after four hours or so of continuous writing, diminishing returns set in. I’d always more or less gone along with this view, but as the summer of 1987 approached I became convinced a drastic approach was needed. Lorna, my wife, agreed.

Until that point, since giving up the day job five years earlier, I’d managed reasonably well to maintain a steady rhythm of work and productivity. But my first flurry of public success following my second novel had brought with it many distractions. Potentially career-enhancing proposals, dinner and party invitations, alluring foreign trips and mountains of mail had all but put an end to my “proper” work. I’d written an opening chapter to a new novel the previous summer, but now, almost a year later, I was no further forward.

So Lorna and I came up with a plan. I would, for a four-week period, ruthlessly clear my diary and go on what we somewhat mysteriously called a “Crash”. During the Crash, I would do nothing but write from 9am to 10.30pm, Monday through Saturday. I’d get one hour off for lunch and two for dinner. I’d not see, let alone answer, any mail, and would not go near the phone. No one would come to the house. Lorna, despite her own busy schedule, would for this period do my share of the cooking and housework. In this way, so we hoped, I’d not only complete more work quantitively, but reach a mental state in which my fictional world was more real to me than the actual one.

Throughout the Crash, I wrote free-hand, not caring about the style or if something I wrote in the afternoon contradicted something I’d established in the story that morning. The priority was simply to get the ideas surfacing and growing. Awful sentences, hideous dialogue, scenes that went nowhere – I let them remain and ploughed on.

By the third day, Lorna observed during my evening break that I was behaving oddly. On my first Sunday off I ventured outdoors, on to Sydenham high street, and persistently giggled – so Lorna told me – at the fact that the street was built on a slope, so that people coming down it were stumbling over themselves, while those going up were panting and staggering effortfully. Lorna was concerned I had another three weeks of this to go, but I explained I was very well, and that the first week had been a success.

I kept it up for the four weeks, and at the end of it I had more or less the entire novel down: though of course a lot more time would be required to write it all up properly, the vital imaginative breakthroughs had all come during the Crash.

I should say that by the time I embarked on the Crash, I’d consumed a substantial amount of “research”: books by and about British servants, about politics and foreign policy between the wars, many pamphlets and essays from the time, including one by Harold Laski on “The Dangers of Being a Gentleman”. I’d raided the second-hand shelves of the local bookshop (Kirkdale Books, still a thriving independent) for guides to the English countryside from the 1930s and 50s. The decision when to start the actual writing of a novel – to begin composing the story itself – always seems to me a crucial one. How much should one know before starting on the prose? It’s damaging to start too early, equally so to start too late. I think with Remains I got lucky: the Crash came just at the right point, when I knew just enough.

Looking back, I see all kinds of influences and sources of inspiration. Here are two of the less obvious ones:

1) In the mid-70s, as a teenager, I’d seen a film called The Conversation, a thriller directed by Francis Ford Coppola. In it Gene Hackman plays a freelance surveillance expert, the go-to man for people who want other people’s conversations secretly taped. Hackman fanatically wants to be the finest in his field – “the greatest bugger in America” – but becomes steadily haunted by the idea that the tapes he gives to his powerful clients may lead to dark consequences, including murder. I believe the Hackman character was an early model for Stevens the butler.

2) I thought I’d finished Remains, but then one evening heard Tom Waits singing his song “Ruby’s Arms”. It’s a ballad about a soldier leaving his lover sleeping in the early hours to go away on a train. Nothing unusual in that. But the song is sung in the voice of a rough American hobo type utterly unaccustomed to wearing his emotions on his sleeve. And there comes a moment, when the singer declares his heart is breaking, that’s almost unbearably moving because of the tension between the sentiment itself and the huge resistance that’s obviously been overcome to utter it. Waits sings the line with cathartic magnificence, and you feel a lifetime of tough-guy stoicism crumbling in the face of overwhelming sadness. I heard this and reversed a decision I’d made, that Stevens would remain emotionally buttoned up right to the bitter end. I decided that at just one point – which I’d have to choose very carefully – his rigid defence would crack, and a hitherto concealed tragic romanticism would be glimpsed.

Astronauts lift our spirits. But can we afford to send humans into space?

US astronaut Bruce McCandless spacewalking, 1984.

Astronauts lift our spirits. But can we afford to send humans into space?

Robin McKie

The success of the Orion spacecraft test flight has paved the way for America to carry humans to Mars and beyond. Yet many scientists say that manned missions are expensive and unnecessary and that robot probes are the future.

America’s first step in its attempt to reconquer worlds beyond our planet ended in spectacular success on Friday. An unmanned version of its Orion spacecraft soared more than 3,000 miles into space before splashing down on target in the Pacific ocean. The flight was hailed by Nasa, which says that the spaceship is destined to be the first of a fleet that will carry humans to the Moon, Mars and beyond.

In many laboratories and research centres, this delight was shared by scientists. A return to sending men and women to other parts of the solar system – years after the US scrapped its last manned space vehicle, the shuttle – cannot come soon enough for them.

But for others, the test flight was viewed as a distinctly unhappy event. Putting humans into space is futile, expensive and ultimately harmful to real science, argue researchers who believe that robot craft represent the future of space exploration and are dismayed by the US’s commitment to return to expensive manned missions.

“For a while I thought president Obama was going to see sense and would wean America off its fascination with putting men and women into space by scrapping manned missions,” the Nobel laureate Steven Weinberg told the Observer. “Unfortunately, with the flight of Orion, that hope has now been dashed.”

Scientists like Weinberg point to missions such as Europe’s Rosetta and Philae probes which have successfully begun an exploration of Comet 67P. They argue that these missions represent the real future of the solar system’s exploration. Men and women will remain expensive nuisances when it comes to discovering other worlds, they say. Relatively cheap robot probes are the future.

The existence of these two camps – manned versus unmanned – reveal a deep division in attitude to space exploration. On one hand, enthusiasts such as astronomer Professor Ian Crawford of Birkbeck College, London, believe that, although modern robots are capable of highly sophisticated tasks, only humans can carry out some forms of exploration.

“We learned a great deal from the Apollo missions, but their landings were all confined to sites near the lunar equator on one side of the Moon,” he said. “The samples they returned to Earth were made up of rocks found lying around the surface. But on the far side of the Moon, there is a region where meteorite impacts have excavated material from deep below the lunar surface. If we could explore these regions and bring samples back to Earth, we will transform our understanding of how the Earth and its satellite, the Moon, formed in the distant past.”

Barking Dog Alerted Al Qaeda to Rescue Attempt

Barking Dog Alerted Al Qaeda to Rescue Attempt

By Mark Nicol and Martin Delgado for The Mail on Sunday

American hostage Luke Somers who was shot dead by his Al Qaeda captors during Navy SEAL rescue bid was 'seconds from safety' when dog's bark ruined plan.

A British-born American photographer kidnapped by Al Qaeda was just seconds from being rescued by US special forces before being shot dead by his captors yesterday.

US Navy SEALs, mounting a dramatic rescue bid, crept to within 100 yards of a compound in a remote mountain hideout in Yemen where the hostages were being held.

The mission was ordered by Barack Obama after terrorists had on Thursday threatened to kill photographer Luke Somers, 33, within 72 hours.

Mr Somers had moved to Yemen in 2011 to teach English but soon began photographing protests in the capital San’a and his images were published by the New York Times and BBC.

He was taken hostage in 2013 and sold to AQAP by local criminals.

Last night Mr Somers’s stepmother Penny Bearman, from Deal, Kent, said: ‘Luke was a talented photographer with a sensitivity for people and people’s lives.’

In Grief "Moving on" May Not Always Be the Solution

In Grief "Moving on" May Not Always Be the Solution

By David B. Seaburn, Ph.D., L.M.F.T.

When a parent loses a child, there is no "moving on," but there is "living with.

Is Expert Testimony In Court Cases Really Expert?

Is Expert Testimony In Court Cases Really Expert?

Expert testimony in many trials is pretty worthless. Each side presents an extreme set of opinions that in opposite ways distort the complex reality. The jury cancels them out or makes a pretty blind choice between them.

Many factors contribute to experts generating heat, not light.

First off, many alleged experts are simply not really all that expert and say things that are just dead wrong. The filters meant to eliminate errant opinion and junk 'science' don't work.

Second, the adversarial system cultivates expert allegiance bias. Consciously or unconsciously, expert opinions are strongly influenced by who is paying the bill

Third, juries often have to decide questions that are far beyond their competence. Which of the dueling experts to believe is more often determined by presentation skills and likability than the technical accuracy of the testimony.

Finally, the adversarial quality of the legal system demands that experts give black-and-white, yes-or-no answers to questions that often require a shades-of-gray, nuanced response. Even wise and unbiased experts mislead when they are forced to choose a yes or no when the best answer would be maybe or a little bit of both.

Limbaugh: GOP too timid on immigration

Limbaugh: Obama can heal racial tensions

Limbaugh: GOP too timid on immigration

“This is about two elections in which the people of this country are begging the Republican people to stop this man,” Limbaugh said on “Fox News Sunday,” insisting that November’s results showed that last year’s shutdown didn’t hurt the GOP.

“The essence of a poll is an election,” he said.

GOP lawmakers have coalesced around a plan that would fund most of the government through next September, with shorter-term funding for the Department of Homeland Security.

Limbaugh said the GOP reaction suggested to him that establishment Republicans, some of whom back the sort of immigration reform the Senate passed last year, agree with Obama’s recent actions, calling out former Gov. Jeb Bush (R) of Florida and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce by name.

“This is a trick,” he said. “The Republicans want what Obama wants on immigration.”

As Mark Wahlberg seeks a pardon, some aren’t ready to forgive.

HOLLYWOOD, CA - NOVEMBER 08: Actor Mark Wahlberg attends the Academy Of Motion Picture Arts And Sciences' 2014 Governors Awards at The Ray Dolby Ballroom at Hollywood & Highland Center on November 8, 2014 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)

As Mark Wahlberg seeks a pardon, some aren’t ready to forgive.

By Maria Cramer and Nestor Ramos

To those who watched Mark Wahlberg transform from a skinny Dorchester delinquent to a Hollywood leading man, the actor deserves a pardon for beating a man outside a convenience store in 1988.

But to some who remember the havoc he wreaked in Boston almost three decades ago, the disclosure this week that Wahlberg is asking the state to erase his teenage offenses from the record is infuriating.

Nam Pham, executive director of VietAID, a Vietnamese community organization in Dorchester, said Wahlberg should first apologize directly to Thanh Lam, a Vietnamese man Wahlberg beat with a stick more than a quarter century ago. Wahlberg also screamed obscenities and racial epithets.

“If I were him I would want the scar on my record erased,” Pham said of Wahlberg. “But I would also ask if I could help erase the scars on the victim.”


Wahlberg, 43, is one of at least 70 people who have applied for a pardon in the months before Governor Deval Patrick leaves office.

Why Jon Stewart Is Bad For America

Why Jon Stewart Is Bad For America

Why Jon Stewart Is Bad For America

By Ramon Lopez

‘The Daily Show’ comedian Jon Stewart negatively affects public discourse.

Jon Stewart’s impact on the media and politics is undeniable. “NBC Nightly News” anchor Brian Williams has noted that, when he presents a news story “Jon’s always in the back of my mind,” and that Stewart’s “The Daily Show” “hold[s] people to account, for errors and sloppiness…it’s healthy.” Stewart is often seen in this light—as a comedic check on the excesses of hypocritical politicians and the press that enables them. Stewart is a channel for the frustration many feel against those in power, and a voice for those without.

But for all the praise Stewart has received, some of it justly deserved, we should also discuss the negative impacts of “The Daily Show,” and of comedy-news programs more generally. Although immensely entertaining, irresistibly likeable, and at times informative, Stewart is doing great damage to the public discourse in this country. He is, of course, not the main culprit of this. But his approach is indicative of the national mood and illustrative of how not to engage with those we disagree with. “The Daily Show” is at fault in two primary ways: its reliance on caricatures and its promotion of cynicism.

“The Daily Show” is a comedy program. As Stewart himself has observed, if he cannot get his audience to laugh, he won’t stay on the air for very long. But it’s also a news program. Before Stewart took over “The Daily Show” in 1999 it mostly focused on pop culture. He transformed the show and in doing so introduced millions of young viewers to politics—viewers who might otherwise find traditional news sources boring and uninteresting. To many, this is good; the pleasure of humor opens the door to the at-times tedious process of political engagement. But how that door is opened matters quite a bit. The form a message takes cannot be disentangled from its effect on the listener.

Comedy by nature has difficulty with nuance. It often depends on broad brushes, hyperbole, and straw men. These are highly useful for producing a comedic effect—it magnifies and picks apart everyday items or experiences, so they no longer seem normal, but absurd. Comedy is a unique way of commenting on our condition, and its capacity to unveil everyday absurdities makes it ripe for commenting on the political and the social.

"Comedy can delegitimize the opposition. The picture it paints is often absurd, so paints characters as caricatures."

Liberals punch back at Dem criticism of ObamaCare

Liberals punch back at Dem criticism of ObamaCare

By Mike Lillis

Liberals on and off Capitol Hill are defending President Obama's healthcare law from the friendly fire of fellow Democrats.

The liberals say the criticisms from Sens. Charles Schumer (N.Y.) and Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) are not only flat wrong, but also pointless coming four years after the law’s passage.

"I disagree with both of them," said Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), who helped usher the bill into law as then-chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee. "I disagree with what they said, and I can't quite see a lot of value in it."

Schumer and Harkin – both of whom played an outsized role in crafting the legislation in 2009 and 2010 – have raised eyebrows in recent weeks by second-guessing the wisdom of their work. 

Schumer said the Democrats' timing was poor, arguing that party leaders should have used the momentum coming out of the Democrats' 2008 election sweep to focus on bread-and-butter economic issues.

“After passing the stimulus, Democrats should have continued to propose middle-class-oriented programs and built on the partial success of the stimulus,” Schumer, the Senate's third-ranking Democrat, said in a Nov. 25 speech at the National Press Club. “Americans were crying out for an end to the recession, for better wages and more jobs – not for changes in their healthcare."

Harkin took those jabs a step further this week, arguing that the policy itself is flawed because Democrats didn't fight hard enough for a public insurance option or a single-payer system, like that underlying Medicare.

“We had the power to do it in a way that would have simplified healthcare, made it more efficient and made it less costly, and we didn’t do it,” Harkin, the chairman of the Senate health committee, told The Hill. “So I look back and say we should have either done it the correct way or not done anything at all.

“What we did is we muddled through and we got a system that is complex, convoluted, needs probably some corrections and still rewards the insurance companies extensively,” he added.

Waxman fired back, saying the ObamaCare law was the best the Democrats could do given the resistance from centrist Senate Democrats and outright opposition from Republicans.

"What Sen. Harkin would have liked might have been better, but it couldn't have passed," Waxman said. "[And] I disagree with Sen. Schumer [in] that this was a very important accomplishment by this administration, and I think the Democrats and Sen. Schumer ought to be proud of it." 

Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), head of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, delivered a similar message, arguing that, while there are plenty of improvements that could be made to the law, the critics should focus their attention on getting those things done instead of questioning the value of the law as it stands.

"There are things that can make the bill better, more accessible and certainly more affordable," Grijalva said. "But in terms of saying we should have done something else, I think it's kind of late in the process." 

Grijalva said he agreed that Democrats should have pushed harder to lower the Medicare eligibility age and promote a public option "that would make the competitive situation on the exchanges much more to the benefit of taxpayers and individuals."

"[But] the only second-guessing that we can do now is to try to provide some fixes to those areas," he said.

After a Cancer Diagnosis, Learning to Let Go

Steven Petrow, left, at his graduation from University of California, Berkeley in 1985.

After a Cancer Diagnosis, Learning to Let Go

The stars may have been shining in Berkeley that late summer’s night, but I couldn’t see them. I was doubled over in my backyard, puking, with the gut-searing spasms of a chemo patient.

This was not how my life was supposed to be. Only six months earlier I had been following a well-ordered routine as a history grad student, up every day at 7 a.m. to walk the exact same route from my apartment on the Southside to the University’s outdoor pool. By 7:30, I’d be slicing through the crisp water with an even crisper stroke. From there, I’d head over to Doe Library, arriving precisely at 9:00. Afternoons were spent teaching undergrads, and more nights than most I fell asleep in my boyfriend Noah’s arms.

My routine gave me structure and comfort – the way I imagine a strait jacket might feel to someone who is not struggling to get out.

The first hint that my tidy life was in danger had come earlier that year when, on my nightly route home from the library, a man had stuck a pistol into my ribs, demanding my near-empty wallet (I was only a grad student!) and my cheap watch (ditto). He nuzzled the gun deeper into my side, roughly pushing me in the direction of People’s Park, a dark hole known for drug trafficking and violent crime.

No good can come of this, I realized as I quickly assessed the situation. A moment later I saw a car approaching and ran toward it, screaming for help. ”Stop or I’ll shoot!” I heard the gunman shout as I rolled over the car hood and landed on the pavement, more disoriented than hurt, as the sedan sped away. When I looked back to where the gunman had stood — no one. Into the park, disappeared.

For a few days after, this bungled assault sat with me as just another pedestrian example of urban crime. Lucky for me it hadn’t ended badly, and I returned to my regularly scheduled program. As it turned out, however, that wasn’t the last of it.

Unconsciously at first, then deliberately, I started taking different routes to and from campus, randomly making my way to the pool, to class, to the library. It was as if my well-ordered life, with its promise of comfort, predictability, even safety, was now in jeopardy.

A month later came the testicular cancer diagnosis – and with it the required removal of the offending malignancy. With no routine to fall back on, the morning of my surgery proved to be a complete improvisation. Up before dawn, I lingered in the shower, holding both testicles for the last time. It felt like I was saying goodbye to a lover who had betrayed me, but whom I still loved.

Obama diagnosed with heartburn after visit to Walter Reed

Obama diagnosed with heartburn after visit to Walter Reed

By Dan Berman

President Barack Obama has returned to the White House after an unscheduled visit Saturday afternoon to the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center to undergo a CT scan after complaining of a sore throat.

The CT scan was “normal,” the president’s physician, Dr. Ronny Jackson, said in a statement.

“The President’s symptoms are consistent with soft tissue inflammation related to acid reflux and will be treated accordingly,” Jackson said.

The president’s visit to Walter Reed was brief — he arrived at 2:37 p.m. and left at 3:11 p.m.

Inside the Pearl Harbor Attack

Inside the Pearl Harbor Attack

In the summer of 1940, the Pacific Fleet was moved from California to Pearl Harbor as a way to counter Japan’s aggressive actions in Southeast Asia. Still, far away from the rest of the world in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, life in Hawaii seemed untouched. The islands’ breezy tropical climate and warm ocean beckoned visitors. Yet on the horizon, foreboding clouds gathered over Asia and slowly drifted toward the islands. On December 7, 1941, the Japanese struck—and changed the world forever.

See photos from the Pearl Harbor attack.

In three minutes, two lives collide and a nation divides

"I just grabbed the top of my gun," the officer testified. (Alberto Cuadro/Post)

In three minutes, two lives collide and a nation divides

Marc Fisher, Kimbriell Kelly, Kimberly Kindy and Amy Brittain

Witnesses in the shooting of Michael Brown can’t agree on what they saw, and the evidence can’t settle the questions.

JUST BEFORE LUNCHTIME on Aug. 9 in Ferguson, Mo., a contractor who was losing a battle between his hatchet and some deep-set tree roots began to fuss and cuss. A stranger who was walking by watched the laborer for a bit and then offered some soothing words.

Why are you so riled up, Michael Brown asked. The Lord Jesus Christ can help you with your anger.

“Boy, you can grab a shovel and come down here and you can get picking at these roots,” the worker said.

Brown didn’t assist with the labor, but he hung around for half an hour. When he returned a little later, Brown, now with his friend Dorian Johnson, was rolling marijuana into lined notebook paper.

“You’re going to smoke it out of that?” the contractor asked.

“No, we’re going to go to the store and get some skins or a blunt or something,” Brown replied, and off he went to the Ferguson Market. To the contractor, Brown didn’t seem high, just “a little bit slow . . . just wanting to talk to somebody.”

U.S. Transfers 6 Guantánamo Detainees to Uruguay

U.S. Transfers 6 Guantánamo Detainees to Uruguay

The United States transferred six detainees from the Guantánamo Bay prison to Uruguay this weekend, the Defense Department announced early Sunday. It was the largest single group of inmates to depart the wartime prison in Cuba since 2009, and the first detainees to be resettled in South America.

The transfer included a Syrian man who has been on a prolonged hunger strike to protest his indefinite detention without trial, and who has brought a high-profile lawsuit to challenge the military’s procedures for force-feeding him. His release may moot most of that case, although a dispute over whether videotapes of the procedure must be disclosed to the public is expected to continue.

The transfer was also notable because the deal has been publicly known since it was finalized last spring. Significantly, however, delays by Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel in signing off on the arrangement placed it in jeopardy. Mr. Hagel’s slow pace this year in approving proposed transfers of low-level detainees contributed to larger tensions with the White House before his resignation under pressure last month.

Although President Obama had vowed in 2013 to revive his effort to close the prison, the military had transferred just one low-level detainee through the first ten months of 2014. That transfer occurred in March. But the bureaucratic logjam appears to be clearing: since November, it has now transferred 13 more. Still, even if the military were to transfer all the other detainees recommended for such a move, some 69 detainees would remain. They are either facing charges before a military commission or are deemed untriable but too dangerous to release.

The Obama administration hopes that if it can shrink the inmate population to two digits, Congress will revoke a law that bars the transfer of detainees into the United States. It would be far cheaper for taxpayers to house the inmates on domestic soil, and the White House argues that closing Guantánamo would eliminate a propaganda symbol for terrorists to use against the country. But Republican lawmakersremain hostile to that plan. They argue that housing wartime prisoners on domestic soil so would increase risks of terrorist attacks inside the United States.

The Uruguay deal was ready to go in March. But in August, when the United States was finally ready to move forward with it and sent a plane to Guantánamo to bring the men out, Uruguay’s president balked.

Bill Cosby sex charges rock entertainment industry

Bill Cosby sex charges rock entertainment industry

By Brad Knickerbocker

The number of women accusing Bill Cosby of sexual assault may be as many as 20, including at least one who was underage. Fellow comedians are stunned, Jerry Seinfeld calling the charges against Cosby “sad and incomprehensible.”

Whatever the number, Mr. Cosby’s reputation seems forever tarnished, no matter that his lawyers and a few defenders in the entertainment industry continue to deny the charges or at least raise questions about the accusations.

As if to symbolize Cosby’s situation, his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, placed there in 1977, has been vandalized, scrawled with the word “rapist.”

Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Police Department is encouraging women who claim to be victims to come forward even through the legal statute of limitations may have passed.

“We don’t turn people away because things are out of statute. You come to us, especially with a sexual allegation, we will work with you,” LAPD Chief Charlie Beck said. “We address these things seriously, and it’s not just because it’s Mr. Cosby.”

The latest accuser – Judy Huth – has filed a civil lawsuit against Cosby, alleging that he sexually assaulted her at the Playboy Mansion when she was 15 years old.

On Tuesday, Ms. Huth filed a complaint in US Superior Court in Los Angeles alleging sexual battery, intentional infliction of emotional distress and negligent infliction of emotional distress for an incident that allegedly occurred around 1974, People magazine reports.

Cosby's lawyer, Martin Singer, responded by filing a response saying Huth's claims were false, part of an attempt to extort Cosby for $250,000 before filing the suit. 

Ms. Huth and attorney Gloria Allred met with LAPD special victim unit detectives Friday.

P.J. Masten said in an interview with CNN that she woke up naked and bruised in a bed with Cosby in Chicago after he gave her an alcoholic drink and that she believes she was raped.

She said she knew Cosby from working at Playboy clubs in New Jersey, Los Angeles and Chicago. She said she was instructed at the time not to report the assault because Cosby was Hugh Hefner's "best friend," but she decided this week to come forward with her allegations after Linda Huth sued Cosby.

“There are a dozen former bunnies that I know of with similar stories, but they’re afraid to come forward,” Ms. Masten told the New York Daily News.

In response to reported episodes involving Playboy facilities, Mr. Hefner released this statement: “Bill Cosby has been a good friend for many years and the mere thought of these allegations is truly saddening. I would never tolerate this kind of behavior, regardless of who was involved."

10 Ways Men Deal With Breakups

10 Ways Men Deal With Breakups

By Jeff Wilser

There’s really no “good” way to break up. My best breakup was also my first. It happened my senior year of college: I was graduating; she wasn’t. I was moving to California; she wasn’t. For months, we knew it would end, and when it did, we enjoyed a candle-lit dinner and swapped breakup gifts, complete with wrapping paper. As breakups go, it was flawless. But the niceties can only count for so much — in the end, it did nothing to dull the hurt.

Some men, however, have mastered the art of making breakups as awful as possible.

7. The Cheat. There's rarely, if ever, a solid reason to cheat. (Quaint? Simple minded? Maybe. Even so, this is my old-school philosophy: If the relationship fails to satisfy, the proper course of action is a breakup, not a betrayal.) But! There’s a silver lining. If the guy cheats, suddenly you have the moral high ground. You can dump his ass without parsing every pro and con, second-guessing your motives, or justifying your decision. He crossed a line and that’s that.
What he’s thinking: Irrelevant.

In wake of Eric Garner case, should grand jury system be reformed?

In wake of Eric Garner case, should grand jury system be reformed?

By Patrik Jonsson

Protests show that perceived injustices such as the Eric Garner case create a brand of ill will that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Thursday called 'corrosive to society.' But reforms to the grand jury system could lead to unintended consequences.

Rooted in history as a skeptical check on the crown, the American grand jury – a secret panel of 12 citizens – has become largely a prosecutor’s rubber stamp. Grand juries almost always return an indictment, except in one specific instance: when it comes to cases involving a police officer. 

Police officers kill approximately 1,000 citizens per year in the line of duty, according to the Killed by Police Facebook page. On average, four officers are indicted for causing gun-related deaths on duty every year, according to a study by Bowling Green State University in Ohio. 

The reasons are manifold. In places like Staten Island, the pool of grand jurors, polls show, have more respect for police officers than in other boroughs, and may themselves be prejudicial. And leeway for police officers comes out of a deeply held social compact, experts say. 

“As a policeman you have an obligation to be held accountable for meeting certain standards,[because] you’re given monopoly on violence,” says Andrew Leipold, a professor at the University of Illinois College of Law. On the other hand, Americans, including grand jurors, are aware that “the police are in [these situations] because we asked them to be there.”

Prosecutors, to be sure, also risk a lot of critical good will with police departments if they indict an officer without a grand jury. And a major reason why grand juries are seen as rubber stamps is that prosecutors rarely bring cases they don’t think they can win, which means that the grand jury process is often a formality, since the standard for indictment is the lower bar of “probable cause” versus the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard for a jury to convict in front of a judge. 

In 2010, federal prosecutors sought indictments in about 162,000 cases, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics. Grand jurors declined to return an indictment in 11 of these.

Hillary Clinton: America should 'empathize' and 'show respect' to its enemies

Speech: Speaking at Georgetown University in Washington D.C. to promote female leadership, Hillary Clinton (pictured during her appearance) said America should 'empathize' and show 'respect' to its enemies

Hillary Clinton: America should 'empathize' and 'show respect' to its enemies

By Sophie Jane Evans for MailOnline

Hillary Clinton has come under fire after saying that America should 'empathize'' with its enemies.

Speaking at Georgetown University in Washington D.C. to promote female leadership, the former U.S. Secretary of State also said the country should show 'respect' to those fighting against it.

Using an approach she dubs 'smart power' - which women are apparently uniquely positioned to deploy - she urged Americans to use 'every possible tool and partner' to advance peace. 

This approach means 'showing respect, even for one's enemies; trying to understand and, insofar as psychologically possible, empathize with their perspective and point of view,' she said. 

Top 10 Things I Learned from Successful Writers

Top 10 Things I Learned from Successful Writers

By Katherine Ramsland, Ph.D.

After many years as a writer, mingling with other writers, I look back on advice I've received from them, good and bad.

Joyce Carol Oates: “Perhaps critics who charged me with writing too much are secretly afraid that someone will accuse them of having done too little with their lives.” Don’t worry about what others say.

All the Career Advice Your Need in One Blog Post?

All the Career Advice Your Need in One Blog Post?

By Marty Nemko, Ph.D.

The 14 Things I Most Want You To Know

4. Negotiations are often won and lost before the negotiation begins.

Do your homework: learn competitive salaries, document not just what you have done but will do that justifies more pay, and ideally obtain interest in you from another employer. That gives you leverage and confidence. 

Police Violence, Black-on-Black Crime and Trust

Police Violence, Black-on-Black Crime and Trust

By Arthur Dobrin, D.S.W.

Police have a serious problem relating to the African American community

In a recent discussion on Meet the Press, former mayor Ruddy Giuliani said that the problem was within the African American community itself. His point was that the real problem was black-on-black crime. So, I suppose in the two anecdotes above, he would point to the dreadlocks in the first instance and the history of theft in the second as examples of how the problem is internal to the black community.

Michael Eric Dyson, sociology professor at Georgetown University, responded strongly to Giuliani’s comments. Dyson said that most criminals involved in black-on-black crime wound up in jail and the problem of police officers killing black citizens can’t be swept away by “the defensive mechanism of white supremacy in your mind, sir!” So I suppose he would hear my students stories and conclude that there is something seriously wrong with police enforcement in the African American community.

Hillary Clinton sticks with President Obama on Israel

Former United States Secretary of State, Hillary Rodham Clinton is pictured. | Getty

Hillary Clinton sticks with President Obama on Israel

In appearance with a pro-Israel donor, she defends the White House on Iran talks.

Hillary Clinton had several opportunities to distance herself from the Obama administration during an appearance Friday before a heavily pro-Israel crowd, but she didn’t take them.

Instead, she defended President Barack Obama’s dealings with the Jewish state at a time of tense U.S.-Israel relations, insisting the White House is committed to Israel’s security and supporting America’s nuclear talks with Iran.

The former secretary of state and likely 2016 Democratic presidential contender was speaking at the Saban Forum, an event hosted by the Brookings Institution and named for billionaire and Democratic mega-donor Haim Saban. She offered her most extensive Israel-related comments since criticizing the president’s foreign policy in a summer interview with The Atlantic that caused a political maelstrom.

American Hostage Killed in Rescue Bid


American Hostage Killed in Rescue Bid

By Julian E. Barnes And Maria Abi-Habib

An American hostage held for more than a year by al Qaeda’s Yemen branch and a South African were killed during a U.S. special operations forces raid Friday night, in the second rescue attempt in as many weeks.

An American hostage held for more than a year by al Qaeda’s Yemen branch and a South African were killed during a U.S. special operations forces raid Friday night, in the second rescue attempt in as many weeks.

Luke Somers, 33 years old, was killed by militants, U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Saturday. Several members of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, or AQAP, were also killed in the raid.

South African teacher Pierre Korkie was also killed in the raid, according to a charity that had been trying to help negotiate his release.

Mr. Hagel said the raid was ordered by President Barack Obama because “there were compelling reasons to believe Mr. Somers’ life was in imminent danger.”

“Both Mr. Somers and a second non-U.S. citizen hostage were murdered by the AQAP terrorists during the course of the operation,” Mr. Hagel said in a statement.

A U.S. official said Mr. Somers was shot by militants as the raid unfolded and wasn’t killed in crossfire.

It wasn’t immediately clear where Mr. Somers’s remains were.

The raid took place after AQAP had warned that they would kill Mr. Somers if U.S. forces attempted another “foolish” rescue attempt, in a video statement released Thursday. In the video, an AQAP commander threatened to kill Mr. Somers by the end of the week if their unspecified demands weren’t met.

Although AQAP’s requests to the U.S. government are unknown, the group frequently asks for ransom payments or prisoner exchanges. Under U.S. law, ransom payments to terrorist groups are illegal and American officials have threatened victims’ family members with legal action in the past if they meet kidnappers’ requests.

CIA Won’t Defend Its One-Time Torturers

CIA Won’t Defend Its One-Time Torturers

When the long-awaited ‘Torture Report’ finally drops, don’t expect the CIA to stand up for its interrogation programs—or disavow those controversial efforts.

There may have been bourbon punch and festive lights at the CIA’s holiday party Friday night, but a frosty gloom hung in the air.

As everyone in the agency’s Langley, Va., headquarters knew, the long-awaited “torture report” from the Senate Intelligence Committee’s Democrats was set to drop early the next week, perhaps as soon as Monday morning. It seemed a rather awkward time for a party.

The CIA’s response to the report will be muted. The agency will neither defend the so-called rendition, detention, and interrogation programs. Nor will the CIA disavow those controversial efforts entirely. According to current and former officials familiar with the higher-ups’ thinking, CIA Director John Brennan is likely to keep his powder dry and essentially agree to disagree with the agency’s critics. Even though some CIA employees remain convinced that brutal interrogations of suspected terrorists, including waterboarding, produced useful information that helped prevent terrorist attacks, the agency’s leaders will take no position on whether that information could have been obtained through less coercive means.

Such a Jesuitical response will do absolutely nothing to satisfy critics of the program or its supporters—some of whom still go work at Langley every day. But it’s the result of the precarious political position that Brennan finds himself in now.

“There is a feeling in the hallways that Brennan is not pursuing their best interest,” said a former intelligence official who talks to friends at headquarters. “That, in fact, he’s pursuing the White House’s best interest. And they’re getting thrown under the bus. It goes back to the one basic thing: Whether they did right or they did wrong, they were told to do something, they did it, and they feel like they had the rug pulled out from underneath them. They feel sold down the river, and Brennan is part of the sale process.”

Hillary Clinton’s History as First Lady: Powerful, but Not Always Deft

Hillary Clinton’s History as First Lady: Powerful, but Not Always Deft

As a young lawyer for the Watergate committee in the 1970s, Hillary Rodham caught a ride home one night with her boss, Bernard Nussbaum. Sitting in the car before going inside, she told him she wanted to introduce him to her boyfriend. “Bernie,” she said, “he’s going to be president of the United States.”

Mr. Nussbaum, stressed by the pressure of that tumultuous period, blew up at her audacious naïveté. “Hillary, that’s the most idiotic” thing, he screamed. She screamed back. “You don’t know a goddamn thing you’re talking about!” she said, and then called him a curse word. “God, she started bawling me out,” he recalled. “She walks out and slammed the door on me, and she storms into the building.”

It turned out she was right and he was wrong. Ms. Rodham, who later married that ambitious boyfriend, Bill Clinton, believed even then that life would take her to the White House and now may seek to return not as a spouse and partner, but on her own terms.

In recent months, as Mrs. Clinton has prepared for a likely 2016 presidential campaign, she has often framed those White House years as a period when, like many working mothers, she juggled the demands of raising a young daughter and having a career. She talks about championing women’s rights globally, supporting her husband during years of robust economic growth, and finding inspiration in Eleanor Roosevelt to stay resolute in the midst of personal attacks.

What Mrs. Clinton leaves out about her time as first lady is her messy, sometimes explosive and often politically clumsy dealings with congressional Republicans and White House aides. Now, the release of roughly 6,000 pages of extraordinarily candid interviews with more than 60 veterans of the Clinton administration paints a more nuanced portrait of a first lady who was at once formidable and not always politically deft.

Her triumphs and setbacks are laid bare in the oral histories of Mr. Clinton’s presidency, released last month by the Miller Center at the University of Virginia. The center has conducted oral histories of every presidency going back to Jimmy Carter’s, interviewing key players and then sealing them for years to come. But more than any other, this set of interviews bears on the future as much as the past.

These were formative years for Mrs. Clinton, a time of daring and hubris, a time when she evolved from that headstrong young lawyer so impressed with the man she would marry into a political figure in her own right. She emerged from battles over health care and Whitewater a more seasoned yet profoundly scarred and cautious politician with a better grasp of how Washington works, but far more wary of ambitious projects that may be unpopular.

Now carefully controlled at 67, then she was fiery and unpredictable, lobbing sarcastic jabs in private meetings and congressional hearings. Now criticized as a centrist and challenged from the left, Mrs. Clinton then was considered the liberal whispering in her husband’s ear to resist the North American Free Trade Agreement and a welfare overhaul.


Mrs. Clinton created her own team in the White House that came to be called Hillaryland, and “they were a little island unto themselves,” as Betty Currie, the president’s secretary, put it. She inspired more loyalty from them than the president did from his own team, said Roger Altman, who was deputy treasury secretary, probably because she was not as purely political. “She wears her heart on her sleeve much more than he does,” he said.

But the Clintons were fiercely protective of each other, acting at times as if it were just them against the world. “I remember one time in one of these meetings where she was blowing up about his staff and how we were all incompetent and he was having to be the mechanic and drive the car and do everything — that we weren’t capable of anything, why did he have to do it all himself,” said Joan N. Baggett, an assistant for political affairs.

Mr. Clinton had a similar temper when it came to the arrows hurled at her, and aides learned early on never to question her judgment in front of him. “He really reacts violently when people criticize Hillary,” said Mickey Kantor, the 1992 campaign chairman and later commerce secretary. “I mean he really gets angry — you can just see it. He literally gets red in the face.”

He depended on her more than any other figure in his world. It blinded him to trouble, some advisers concluded, most notably about her ill-fated drive to remake the health care system.

But he rarely overruled her, at least not in ways that staff members could detect. “I can’t think of any issue of any importance at all where they were in disagreement and she didn’t win out,” recalled Abner Mikva, who served as White House counsel.

“Hillary never turns her head when she’s talking to someone,” noticed former Senator Alan Simpson of Wyoming, then the No. 2 Republican. “She is absolutely riveted. She doesn’t look around, like, ‘Oh, hi there, Tilly. How are you?’ or divert her attention from the person she’s talking to. That’s a gift.”

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