Editor’s Choice: Scroll below for December 2014 news in our monthly blend of mainstream and alternative news and views
President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, daughters Sasha and Malia, Marian Robinson and Interior Secretary Sally Jewell participate in the National Christmas Tree lighting on the Ellipse in Washington, D.C., Dec. 4, 2014.
Reuters, U.S. discloses failed attempt to rescue American in Yemen, Dec. 4, 2014. The man in the video says he was born in the United Kingdom and holds American citizenship. Al Qaeda threatens U.S. captive with “inevitable fate” if demands not met. The United States on Thursday for the first time publicly disclosed a failed attempt last month to rescue a U.S. citizen held hostage by al Qaeda’s Yemen branch, and the group threatened to kill him in a new video posted on the Internet. U.S. officials said President Barack Obama last month authorized a secret raid to rescue Luke Somers, a 33-year-old journalist who was kidnapped in Yemen’s capital Sanaa in September 2013. Somers, shown in photo, was not at the targeted location, although other hostages were freed, the officials said. “As soon as the U.S. government had reliable intelligence and an operational plan, the president authorized the Department of Defense to conduct an operation to recover Mr. Somers,” said Bernadette Meehan, a spokeswoman for the White House National Security Council. “Regrettably, Luke was not present.”
Zero Hedge, Fight Breaks Out In Parliament When Ukraine Learns It Has Quietly Become The Newest US State, Tyler Durden, Dec. 4, 2014. It appears not all the government members approve of the new foreign-born members of the Ukraine parliament…as indicated by a fight that just broke out on the floor. Three foreigners — Natalie Jaresko, Aivaras Abromavicius, and Aleksandr Kvitashvili — were approved as ministers by Ukraine’s parliament on December 2. President Petro Poroshenko said their appointment, which has raised some eyebrows in Ukraine, was part of an effort to find “innovative solutions in the government” due to the “extraordinary challenges facing Ukraine.” Poroshenko naturalized all three hours before their confirmation by parliament. Jaresko, reared in the United States and from Ukrainian background, was named as finance minister. She moved to Kyiv in 1992, just months after Ukraine gained independence from the Soviet Union, to head the economic department of the newly opened U.S. embassy. Prior to her relocation, she held various economic positions in the U.S. State Department. She holds a master’s degree in public policy from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government. Jaresko faces a tough job warding off economic collapse, battling corruption, and reforming Ukraine’s economy as the country continues to fight an armed insurgency in the east.
WhoWhatWhy, Boston Update: Tsarnaev Tries To Move Bombing Trial Again, Andy Thibault (shown in photo), Dec. 2, 2014. The Boston Marathon bombing is much more important than has been acknowledged, principally because it is the defining domestic national security event since 9/11—and has played a major role in expanding the power of the security state. For that reason, WhoWhatWhy is continuing to investigate troubling aspects of this story and the establishment media treatment of it. We will be exploring new elements of the story regularly as with the approach of the January trial of the accused co-conspirator Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, shown in a file photo. More than six months ago, WhoWhatWhy raised the issue of whether leaks by law enforcement to a cooperative media had already sunk the accused bomber’s right to a fair trial in Boston. His legal team clearly had the same concerns, and in July asked the court to move the trial to another city. U.S. District Judge George O’Toole denied the motion in September. The defendant failed to show that the extensive media coverage had “so inflamed and pervasively prejudiced” the pool of potential jurors to render “a fair and impartial jury” impossible, the judge wrote. Now, in a second motion for a change of venue filed Dec. 1, Tsarnaev’s legal team is arguing that the need to move the trial has grown more urgent, in part because of the continuing stream of news stories.
Washington Post, What America’s police departments don’t want you to know, Eugene Robinson, Dec. 1, 2014. Michael Brown’s death was part of a tragic and unacceptable pattern: Police officers in the United States shoot and kill civilians in shockingly high numbers. How many killings are there each year? No one can say for sure, because police departments don’t want us to know. According to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report, in 2013 there were 461 “justifiable homicides” by police—defined as “the killing of a felon by a law enforcement officer in the line of duty.” In all but three of these reported killings, officers used firearms. The true number of fatal police shootings is surely much higher, however, because many law enforcement agencies do not report to the FBI database. Attempts by journalists to compile more complete data by collating local news reports have resulted in estimates as high as 1,000 police killings a year. There is no way to know how many victims, like [Michael] Brown, were unarmed. By contrast, there were no fatal police shootings in Great Britain last year. Not one. In Germany, there have been eight police killings over the past two years. In Canada—a country with its own frontier ethos and no great aversion to firearms—police shootings average about a dozen a year.
Washington Post, Ashton Carter to be nominated as next defense secretary, Craig Whitlock and Missy Ryan, Dec. 2, 2014. President Obama will nominate Ashton B. Carter, 60, a physicist with long experience at the Pentagon, as his new secretary of defense. If confirmed by the Senate Carter would succeed Chuck Hagel, the former Nebraska senator who is being pushed aside by the White House after less than two years in the job. Hagel, a Republican, fell out of favor with Obama and the president’s inner circle as the U.S. military became embroiled in a new war in the Middle East, a challenge that is expected to preoccupy the Obama administration for the remainder of its term. Although Carter has more experience as a technocrat than as a wartime leader, his extensive national security credentials and the support for his nomination in Congress made him an appealing choice.
Washington Post, U.S. weighs a new front to create safe zone in Syria, Karen DeYoung, Dec. 1, 2014. The Obama administration is weighing the opening of a new front in the air war against the Islamic State in Syria, part of an offensive to push back militants along the western portion of Syria’s border with Turkey and create a relatively safe zone for U.S.-backed Syrian rebel forces to move in. Under the plan, U.S. aircraft flying from Turkey’s Incirlik air base would target positions the militants currently hold along the border north of Aleppo, eastward toward the besieged town of Kobane. Turkish special forces would move into the area to assist targeting and help Syrian opposition fighters consolidate their hold on the territory. President Obama, who has not yet approved the proposal, was briefed on its parameters at a meeting with his senior national security advisers last Wednesday. The plan, which was developed over the past several weeks during extensive meetings between U.S. and Turkish diplomatic and military officials, also was a subject of discussion between Vice President Biden and Turkey’s top political leaders during Biden’s visit to Istanbul 10 days ago.
Politico, Secret showdown in CIA leak case, Josh Gerstein, Dec. 1, 2014. Prosecutors and defense lawyers in the case of a former CIA officer accused of leaking top-secret information to a New York Times reporter had a secret showdown in federal court recently over what to do about a half-dozen prosecution witnesses whose own employment records show violations of the rules and arguably even the laws governing handling of classified information. The six witnesses set to testify against alleged leaker Jeffrey Sterling took secret documents home themselves without authorization, according to a recent court filing.
AL.com, A new ‘Discovery’ on the Stephen Nodine case: guest opinion, Quin Hillyer, Dec. 1, 2014. Stephen Nodine isn’t a sympathetic figure. But when legal errors have been made, authorities should make redress. On Wednesday, Dec. 3, the Discovery Channel will air a documentary on the murder/suicide case that ensnared Nodine, the former Mobile County Commissioner, in 2010.