Tag Archive: Barack Obama

Mike Lee: Republicans cannot ‘expect to win elections by default’Opening speaker Ted Cruz laid out party’s midterm election agenda

Jim Newell

Bill containing cuts which could affect nearly a million households could go to a House vote on Wednesday

Paul Lewis

Reports this week claimed Snowden had applied for asylum in Russia because he feared torture if he was returned to US

The US has told the Russian government that it will not seek the death penalty for Edward Snowden should he be extradited, in an attempt to prevent Moscow from granting asylum to the former National Security Agency contractor.

In a letter sent this week, US attorney general Eric Holder told his Russian counterpart that the charges faced by Snowden do not carry the death penalty. Holder added that the US “would not seek the death penalty even if Mr Snowden were charged with additional, death penalty-eligible crimes”.

Holder said he had sent the letter, addressed to Alexander Vladimirovich, Russia’s minister of justice, in response to reports that Snowden had applied for temporary asylum in Russia “on the grounds that if he were returned to the United States, he would be tortured and would face the death penalty”.

“These claims are entirely without merit,” Holder said. In addition to his assurance that Snowden would not face capital punishment, the attorney general wrote: “Torture is unlawful in the United States.”

In the letter, released by the US Department of Justice on Friday, Holder added: “We believe that these assurances eliminate these asserted grounds for Mr Snowden’s claim that he should be treated as a refugee or granted asylum, temporary or otherwise.”

The US has been seeking Snowden’s extradition to face felony charges for leaking details of NSA surveillance programmes. There were authoritative reports on Wednesday that authorities in Moscow had granted Snowden permission to stay in Russia temporarily, but when Snowden’s lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, arrived to meet his client at Sheremetyevo airport, he said the papers were not yet ready.

Kucherena, who has close links to the Kremlin, said Snowden would stay in the airport’s transit zone, where he has been in limbo since arriving from Hong Kong on 23 June, for the near future.

The letter from Holder, and the apparent glitch in Snowden’s asylum application, suggest that Snowden’s fate is far from secure.

But a spokesman for President Vladimir Putin insisted Russia has not budged from its refusal to extradite Snowden. Asked by a reporter on Friday whether the government’s position had changed, Dmitry Peskov told Russian news agencies that “Russia has never extradited anyone and never will.” Putin has previously insisted Russia will not extradite Snowden to the US. There is no US-Russia extradition treaty.

Putin’s statement still leaves the Russian authorities room for manoeuvre, however, as Snowden is not technically on Russian soil.

Peskov said that Putin is not involved in reviewing Snowden’s application or involved in discussions about the whistleblower’s future with the US, though he said the Russian security service, the FSB, had been in touch with the FBI.

Speaking on Wednesday, Snowden’s lawyer said he was hoped to settle in Russia. “[Snowden] wants to find work in Russia, travel and somehow create a life for himself,” Kucherena told the television station Rossiya 24. He said Snowden had already begun learning Russian.

There is support among some Russian politicians for Snowden to be allowed to stay in the country. The speaker of the Russian parliament, Sergei Naryshkin, has said Snowden should be granted asylum to protect him from the death penalty.

The letter from Holder was designed to allay those fears and negate the grounds for which Snowden as allegedly applied for asylum in Russia. The attorney general said that if Snowden returned to the US he would “promptly be brought before a civilian court” and would receive “all the protections that United States law provides”.

“Any questioning of Mr Snowden could be conducted only with his consent: his participation would be entirely voluntary, and his legal counsel would be present should he wish it,” Holder said.

He added that despite Snowden’s passport being revoked he “remains a US citizen” and said the US would facilitate a direct return to the country.

Germany’s president, who helped expose the workings of East Germany’s Stasi secret police, waded into the row on Friday. President Joachim Gauck, whose role is largely symbolic, said whistleblowers such as Snowden deserved respect for defending freedom.

“The fear that our telephones or mails are recorded and stored by foreign intelligence services is a constraint on the feeling of freedom and then the danger grows that freedom itself is damaged,” Gauck said.

So as we wrap up the year many of us will stop and ponder on things that have come, accomplishments we’ve made and the joys we’ve had. Others however know the best place to take a trip down memory lane is the interwebs. Where you say? Well as they have done year after year YouTube presents us with a wonderful mash-up of their top videos of the year. Of course we’re not talking some simple cut and snip no this year they headed it up with Psy and YouTube’s Year in review went Gangnam Style!

Hit the break for the mouth dropping wrap up of 2012 in YouTube’s Rewind including everything from Psy’s Gangnam Style to Barrack vs Romney Epic Rap Battle. Prepare to have your mind blown!

‘It kills me’ to have lost election to Obama, former Massachusetts governor says in first major interview since November defeat

Mitt Romney has admitted that a failure to connect with minority voters and his underestimation of support for Barack Obama’s healthcare reforms helped cost him the presidential election – an assessment that could have important implications for a Republican party divided over how to take back the White House.

Romney said the alienation of Latino and black voters did “real damage to my campaign”.

“We weren’t effective taking our message to primarily to minority voters, to Hispanic Americans, African Americans, other minorities.

“That was a failing. That was a real mistake,” he told Fox News Sunday in his first major interview since his defeat in November.

Romney also conceded that he underestimated support for the president’s healthcare reforms which he campaigned to repeal.

“Obamacare was very attractive, especially to those who did not have health insurance, and they came out in large numbers to vote,” he said.

The acknowledgement will be seized on by sections of the Republican party which believe it has to connect with Latino and younger voters in particular if it is to stand and not lose ground in congressional and state elections, especially in regions with a rapidly rising number of Hispanic voters.

Some Republicans, such as senator Marco Rubio, are urging the party to move away from anti-immigrant legislation and hostile rhetoric that played particularly badly with Hispanic and other minority voters.

But Romney said he would not be the man to be telling his party what to do on that or other issues.

“I lost, and so I’m not going to be telling the Republican party: come listen to me, the guy who lost,” he said.

Romney said “it kills me” to have lost the election to Obama but took personal responsibility for the defeat saying it was “because of my campaign not because of anything anyone else did”.

He conceded that he damaged his own campaign badly with the notorious comment about 47% of voters who will vote for Obama because they “believe that they are victims” who pay no income tax. He said at the time that “my job is not to worry about those people”.

On Sunday, Romney said he had not meant what he said but recognised it had hurt him.

“It is not what I meant. I did not express myself as I wished I would have,” he said. “It was very harmful. What I said is not what I believe. That hurt. There is no question that hurt and did real damage to my campaign.”

However, Romney denied what was characterised by the Obama campaign as his flip-flopping on issues in order to first woo conservative Republican primary voters and then shifting to appeal to the broader electorate in November.

“The idea that somehow the primary made me become more conservative than I was just isn’t accurate,” he said. “On the other hand, a long and blistering primary, where people are attacking one another and where the attack sometimes are not on the mark but are creating an unfavourable impression, those things are not helpful.”

Romney said he was “convinced we would win” right up until election day but knew his bid for the White House was doomed when the exit polls from Florida, which he expected to win handily, showed a tight race.

Obama took Florida with a clear majority, but by then the president had also won Ohio and Romney said he then knew he’d lost for sure.

Romney joked that at least in 2012 he was the Republican candidate after failing to win the party’s nomination four years earlier, but said he will not make a third run.

The Republican former candidate waded into the latest Washington crisis, expressing frustration at what he described as Obama’s failure of leadership over the $85bn in automatic cuts which kicked in on Friday under the sequester after Republicans and Democrats failed to agree a package of spending reductions and tax increases to tackle the US deficit.

“It kills me not to be there, not to be in the White House doing what needs to be done,” he said. “What we’ve seen is the president out campaigning to the American people doing rallies around the country, flying around the country, and berating Republicans and blaming and pointing. That causes the Republicans to retrench and then put up a wall and to fight back. It is a very natural emotion.”

Romney’s wife, Ann, appeared alongside him for the interview. She said she is still frustrated that “people didn’t really get to know Mitt for who he was”, which she blamed on the campaign and the media. She said that she was asked to appear on Dancing with the Stars after the election but turned it down because of her age.

“I’m not really as flexible as I should be,” she said.

Fifteen-year-old Hadiya Pendleton was talking with friends when gunman opened fire on group

A 15-year-old girl who performed in Barack Obama’s inauguration festivities has been killed in a Chicago park as she talked with friends by a gunman who apparently was not even aiming at her.

Chicago police said Hadiya Pendleton was in a park about a mile from Obama’s home on Tuesday afternoon when a man opened fire on the group. Hadiya was shot in the back as she tried to escape.

Chicago is experiencing its bloodiest January in more than a decade, following on the heels of 2012, which ended with more than 500 homicides for the first time since 2008. It also comes at a time when Obama, spurred by the Connecticut elementary school massacre in December, is actively pushing for tougher gun laws.

Hadiya’s father, Nathaniel Pendleton, spoke on Wednesday at a Chicago police news conference, which was held in the same park where his daughter died.

“He took the light of my life,” Pendleton said. He then spoke directly to the killer: “Look at yourself, just know that you took a bright person, an innocent person, a nonviolent person.”

Hadiya was a bright kid who was killed just as she was “wondering about which lofty goal she wanted to achieve,” said her godfather. “She was a very active kid, doing dance, cheerleading, who felt like she could accomplish just about anything, a very good student who had big dreams about what she wanted to be, a doctor, an attorney,” said Damon Stewart, a Chicago police officer and attorney. “She was constantly getting good grades.”

Obama was asked about Hadiya’s death in an interview with Telemundo, which led to a discussion about gun control. The White House press secretary, Jay Carney, said the president and the first lady’s “thoughts and prayers are with” her family, adding: “And as the president has said, we will never be able to eradicate every act of evil in this country, but if we can save any one child’s life, we have an obligation to try when it comes to the scourge of gun violence.”

In Chicago, gangs routinely and often indiscriminately open fire. Mayor Rahm Emanuel is pushing for tougher local, state and national gun laws and longer prison sentences for offenders.

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