Former U.S. government officials said yesterday that the “suicide bomber who killed seven CIA operatives in Afghanistan last week was a Jordanian informant who lured intelligence officers into a trap by promising new information about al-Qaeda’s top leadership.” The bomber had been recruited to infiltrate al Qaeda’s leadership circles and was trusted by his CIA and Jordanian handlers.
“The Obama administration has transferred dozens of names from a broad terrorism database” to the no-fly list or to the Secondary Security Screening Selection list. White House spokesman Bill Burton said counterterrorism officials examined “thousands upon thousands” of names before deciding which to transfer.
The Obama administration’s decision to require citizens traveling from 14 countries to receive extra searches at airports has drawn angry criticism from foreign officials. “It is unfair to discriminate against over 150 million people because of the behavior of one person,” Nigerian information minister Dora Akunyili told the press.
Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) was censured by the Lexington County Republican Party in South Carolina yesterday. Criticizing Graham for his vote in favor of the 2008 financial bailout and his outspoken support of immigration reform, the Lexington GOP became the second county party organization to pass a censure resolution.
$2.3 trillion: Amount the U.S. spent on health care in 2008, averaging $7,681 per person, and up 4.4 percent from 2007. The rate of growth was the lowest in 48 years because of the recession, although health spending “reached 16.2 percent of the gross domestic product in 2008, up from 15.9 percent in 2007.” The White House called the new federal report “a striking reminder of what defenders of the status quo are defending.”
“Senate Republicans are determined to prevent the creation of an independent Consumer Financial Protection Agency because they consider it as threatening as their current arch-nemesis regulator: the Environmental Protection Agency.” “From the Republican point of view, the idea of a separate agency is still anathema,” Sen. Bob Bennett (R-UT) told the Huffington Post. “Can you say EPA?”
“The number of Americans filing for personal bankruptcy rose by nearly a third in 2009, a surge largely driven by foreclosures and job losses,” the Wall Street Journal reports. Personal bankruptcy filings hit 1.41 million last year, up 32 percent from 2008. Filing for Chapter 7 bankruptcy, “which liquidates assets to pay off some debts and absolves the filers of others,” also rose 42 percent last year.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said yesterday that the Obama administration remains open to talks with Iran over its nuclear program, despite Tehran’s unaccommodating stance. President Obama said he will move toward tougher sanctions if Iran does not respond positively to his overtures by the beginning of 2010.
Rajendra Pachauri, the chair of the Nobel Prize-winning U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said that climate change skeptics and entrenched industries threaten to harm the world’s poorest people. “Powerful vested interests are perhaps likely to get overactive in the coming months, and would perhaps do everything in their power to impede progress towards a binding agreement that is hoped for by the end of 2010 in Mexico City,” Pachauri told the Guardian.
And finally: On New Year’s Eve, Newark, NJ Mayor Cory Booker came to the rescue after a resident went on Twitter and asked him to help her snowed-in father.
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