LONDON (AP) — A brave scout leader who may have prevented further violence has emerged as an unlikely hero in the apparent terror attack that left one man dead on the streets of London.
Ingrid Loyau-Kennett got off a bus and tried to reason with the two attackers after she tried to help the man lying on the street but found he had no pulse and was already dead.
The 48-year-old mother kept talking to the two bloody attackers before police came, trying to keep them calm.
Loyau-Kennett, who lives in Cornwall in southwest England, told several British media outlets Wednesday night and Thursday morning that she was returning from a trip to France and was visiting her children in London when the bus she was on stopped because of the melee.
She said she saw a crashed car and the victim lying on the street and tried to help him since she had been trained in first aid. She had determined the man was dead by the time the attackers confronted her.
She said a man “with a black hat and a revolver in one hand and a cleaver in the other came over” and excitedly warned her to stay away from the body.
“I asked him why he had done what he had done,” The Guardian quoted her as saying. “He said he had killed the man because he (the victim) was a British soldier who killed Muslim women and children in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was furious about the British Army being over there.”
When the man told her he was going to kill police when they arrived, she asked him if that was reasonable and tried to keep him engaged.
Then she spoke to the other attacker, who she described as quiet and shy.
“I asked him if he wanted to give me what he was holding in his hand, which was a knife, but I didn’t want to say that,” she said. “He didn’t agree and I asked him: ‘Do you want to carry on?’ He said: ‘No, no, no.’ I didn’t want to upset him,” she is quoted as saying in The Guardian.
Prime Minister David Cameron Thursday praised Loyau-Kennett’s performance in the tense situation and said she “spoke for all of us” when she told the first attacker that he could not win the war he said he was hoping to start on the streets of London.
Cameron said the presence of mind she and others in the vicinity showed despite the danger was an indication of how Britain would triumph over terrorism by standing together.
Loyau-Kennett said she was not scared and that the armed men did not seem to be drunk or on drugs. She said she was trying to keep them occupied so they didn’t get more agitated.
She re-boarded her bus shortly before police arrived, watching from the bus as police shot the two suspects, who are both receiving treatment in hospital.
“The officers shot them in the legs, I think” she says in The Guardian.
WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama is set to at least partially lift the veil of secrecy surrounding U.S.-directed drone strikes around the world, a key component of counterterrorism strategy, as he outlines the contours of the continuing threat to American security.
On the eve of the president’s speech at the National Defense University, the Obama administration revealed for the first time that a fourth American citizen had been killed in secretive drone strikes abroad. The killings of three other Americans in counterterror operations since 2009 were not widely known before a letter from Attorney General Eric Holder to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy acknowledged the four deaths.
Obama’s speech is expected to reaffirm his national security priorities — from homegrown terrorists to killer drones to the enemy combatants held at the military-run detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba — but make no new sweeping policy announcements.
The White House has offered few clues on how the president will address questions that have dogged his administration for years and, critics say, given foreign allies mixed signals about U.S. intentions in some of the world’s most volatile areas.
Obama will try to refocus an increasingly apathetic public on security issues as his administration grapples with a series of unrelated controversies stemming from the attack on a U.S. compound in Benghazi, Libya, the IRS’ targeting of conservative groups and government monitoring of reporters. His message will also be carefully analyzed by an international audience that has had to adapt to what counterterror expert Peter Singer described as the administration’s disjointed and often short-sighted security policies.
“He is really wresting with a broader task, which is laying out an overdue case for regularizing our counterterrorism strategy itself,” said Singer, director of the Brookings Institution’s 21st Century Security and Intelligence Center in Washington. “It’s both a task in terms of being a communicator, and a task in term of being a decider.”
The White House said Obama’s speech coincides with the signing of new “presidential policy guidance” on when the U.S. can use drone strikes, though it was unclear what that guidance entailed and whether Obama would outline its specifics in his remarks.
Chief among the topics the speech will focus on, officials said, is the administration’s expanded use of unmanned spy drones to kill hundreds of people in Pakistan, Yemen and other places where terrorists have taken refuge.
Obama has pledged to be more open with the public about the scope of the drone strikes. But a growing number of lawmakers in Congress are seeking to limit U.S. authorities that support the deadly drone strikes, which have targeted a wider range of threats than initially anticipated.
The president is expected to talk generally about the need for greater transparency in the drone strikes and may allude to the desire to give greater responsibility for those operations to the military. But he is likely to tread carefully on an issue that involves classified CIA operations.
The U.S. military has begun to take over the bulk of the strikes, replacing the CIA in nearly all areas except Pakistan, according to an administration official who was not authorized to discuss the plans on the record and spoke on condition of anonymity. That shift in responsibility has given Congress greater oversight of the secretive program.
Obama “believes that we need to be as transparent about a matter like this as we can, understanding that there are national security implications to this issue and to the broader issues involved in counterterrorism policy,” White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters Wednesday.
“He thinks (this) is an absolutely valid and legitimate and important area of discussion and debate and conversation, and that it is his belief that there need to be structures in place that remain in place for successive administrations,” Carney said. “So that in the carrying out of counterterrorism policy, procedures are followed that allow it to be conducted in a way that ensures that we’re keeping with our traditions and our laws.”
In a letter Wednesday to congressional leaders, Holder said only one of the U.S. citizens killed in counterterror operations beyond war zones — Anwar al-Awlaki, who had ties to at least three attacks planned or carried out on U.S. soil — was specifically targeted by American forces. He said the other three Americans were not targeted in the U.S. strikes.
The deaths of three of the four, including al-Awlaki’s 16-year-old son, Abdulrahman, were already known. Holder’s letter revealed the killing of Jude Kenan Mohammad, who was indicted by federal authorities in 2009 as part of an alleged homegrown terror plot to attack the U.S. Marine Corps base at Quantico, Va. Before he could be arrested, authorities said, Mohammad fled the country to join jihadi fighters in the tribal areas of Pakistan.
For months Congress has urged Obama to release a classified Justice Department legal opinion justifying when U.S. counterterror missions, including drone strikes, can be used to kill American citizens abroad. Several lawmakers declined immediate comment Wednesday on Holder’s letter or Obama’s speech.
Human rights watchdogs, however, were not immediately appeased.
Human Rights First legal director Dixon Osburn welcomed the White House’s pledge for more transparency but remained “deeply concerned that the administration appears to be institutionalizing a problematic targeted killing policy without public debate on whether the rules are lawful or appropriate.”
“The American public deserves to know whether the administration is complying with the law, and Congress should debate the legal and policy implications of our targeted killing operations,” Osburn said in a statement.
In re-affirming his pledge to close the detention center at Guantanamo, Obama will push in the speech for a renewed effort to transfer its 166 detainees to other countries. Congress and the White House have sparred since Obama took office in 2009 over the fate of the suspects and whether they can be brought to trial on U.S. soil. In the meantime, the detainees have been held for years with diminishing hope that they will charged with a crime or be given a trial.
An aide to House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard P. “Buck” McKeon, R-Calif., said lawmakers remain concerned that detainees who are released would rejoin the terror fight. The staff member was not authorized to discuss the issue on the record and spoke on condition of anonymity.
This week, the Pentagon asked Congress for more than $450 million for maintaining and upgrading the Guantanamo prison. More than 100 of the prisoners have launched a hunger strike to protest their indefinite detention, and the military earlier this month was force-feeding 30 of them to keep them from starving to death.
Obama was expected to make the case that the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan has decimated al-Qaida’s core, even as new threats emerge elsewhere.
Against the backdrop of last month’s deadly double-bombing at the Boston Marathon, administration officials said Obama will highlight the persistent threat of homegrown terrorists — militants or extremists who are either American citizens or have lived in the U.S. for years. The two Chechen-born suspects in the Boston attacks were raised in the United States and turned against America and its invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan only in recent years, investigators have said.
Like the quandaries of drone strikes and Guantanamo, the rise of homegrown terrorism is nothing new. The Obama administration included homegrown threats in its National Security Strategy in 2010. However, such threats have increased as the power of al-Qaida’s central leadership has ebbed — especially after Osama bin Laden was killed in his Pakistani hideout by U.S. special forces two years ago.
Singer, the Brookings expert, said Obama’s administration has been plagued with making short-term calculations on security issues with long-term impacts. He said the president’s speech will serve to gloss over the “ad-hoc” strategies advocated by some of his advisers, and make clear his top priorities for the rest of his time in office.
Especially with regard to the drone strikes, Singer said, “you have this irony that’s played out over the last four years, where one of the greatest speakers of our era has largely remained silent about one of the signature aspects of his presidency.”
Follow Lara Jakes at https://twitter.com/larajakesAP and Lolita C. Baldor on Twitter at https://twitter.com/lbaldor
So you’re considering college but don’t have the dough. Or maybe you’re out of college now and still don’t have the dough. You’re not alone: In the past 30 years, the cost of a college degree has risen 1,120 percent and the number of people taking out loans to pay for it has skyrocketed.
The good news is that with a little creativity (and maybe even some help from Washington), there are ways to make this daunting task less onerous.
Below are 10 things that can be done to rein in the cost of obtaining a degree. The ideas come from a range of sources, including liberal, conservative and libertarian think tanks; Republican and Democratic politicians; artists; entrepreneurs; and dropouts. Some of the ideas here are controversial and, at times, contradictory.
But here they are, all in one place.
1. Don’t rely on your gut to determine where to go to school—look at the ROI
How many people do you know who chose a school because they liked the football team? Or because the school had a great reputation, even if it didn’t offer an exceptional program in their chosen field of study? Maybe the deal-maker was that it gave them the best chance to get laid?
Instead, why not choose a school on the return on investment?
In their new book—“Is College Worth It?”—William J. Bennett and David Wilezol argue that when you look strictly at the return on investment, only about 150 out of 4,000 colleges and universities in the United States are actually “worth” the time, cost and debt.
“It’s time for parents and students to look at the entire enterprise of higher education and ask how, when, where, for whom, in what studies, and at what cost is a college education appropriate,” Bennett and Wilezol write in the book. “And if it is not appropriate, what are the alternatives? We’re not saying, ‘Don’t go to college.’ We’re saying, ‘Maybe you should go. It all depends. But if you go, go with your eyes wide open.”
Attending college, of course, isn’t merely a raw exercise for money: It’s a time of personal growth and reflection and a place where you make lifelong relationships. But economics should play a role.
2. Speaking of data, the government should help make it more available
Elizabeth Akers, a fellow in the Washington, D.C.-based Brookings Institution’s Brown Center on Education Policy, thinks the federal government should do more to make public statistics about educational degrees and their payoffs.
In February, the Obama administration launched a new College Scorecard, an online tool that provides financial information about colleges and universities, degrees and career paths. Users can type in their preferred regions, the size of the schools they prefer, the amounts they’re willing to pay and the degrees they want, and the program will provide a range of options that fit the criteria.
Sounds cool! Thanks, Obama! But it still could work better.
“Unfortunately data on earnings and employment rates of graduates are missing from the reports but a placeholder for this information suggests a desire to develop this functionality,” Akers wrote in an analysis of the program in February.
“The availability of information regarding the employment and financial outcomes of graduates has clear benefits at the individual level,” she continued. “With [this information] prospective students can form realistic expectations about their own futures. This makes them able to effectively consider the tradeoff between costs of attendance and heightened future earnings.”
The White House’s efforts here could serve as a starting point for other agencies at both the federal and state levels to help potential college attendees choose where to put their hard-earned (or borrowed) money. The Department of Labor and the Bureau of Labor Statistics both have online tools to calculate what workers can expect to earn in a given field.
3. Mandate that colleges make information like tuition costs and rates of graduation more readily available
David Madland and Karla Walter of the liberal Center for American Progress write that “the federal government should require colleges and universities to do a better job of providing pertinent information to prospective students concerning their likelihood of graduating, finding employment, and paying off student debt. Schools should be required to direct students to this information on all promotional materials to allow students to easily compare schools.”
4. You don’t have to go directly to college after high school
Who made it a rule that every teenager should sink tens of thousands of dollars into an expensive four-year venture before their brains are fully developed or they know what they want to study? In reality, nothing is stopping you from taking a year “off” to work.
Working first could result in needing to borrow less money for college. If you want to make money quickly and you have a sense for adventure, consider a labor-intensive job, such as on North Dakota’s oil fields or a commercial fishing gig in Alaska. The pay is good, and it doesn’t require formal educational experience. Once you begin college, you could even use your contacts at those jobs to secure summer work, which would allow you to pay for your semester beforehand in cash instead of taking out high-interest loans.
5. Consider attending a ‘Work College’
The federal government recognizes seven “Work Colleges” in the United States where students simultaneously study while working for the school. The result: no tuition and no debt.
On the presidential campaign trail in 2012, Newt Gingrich spoke often about the College of the Ozarks in Missouri, for example, where students work 15 hours per week and spend two weeks working 40 hours while studying. At the end of four years, students not only escape debt-free, but they also have a work-filled resumé to boot.
6. Work for the government or a nonprofit group after college graduation
Since 2007, the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program has allowed loan-burdened graduates who work for the government or 501(c)(3) nonprofit groups to have part of their federal loans paid off by taxpayers. Those who take jobs in public service must first make “120 on-time, full, scheduled, monthly payments” to qualify.
7. Congress can keep interest rates on student loans low and predictable
Because Congress voted to temporarily lower federal student loan interest rates to 3.4 from 6.8 percent, lawmakers are repeatedly tasked with keeping the rates low. The uncertainty of the quick fix turns the issue—which would have real-life consequences for those paying down federal loans—into a political football that could be avoided if Congress could agree to something more permanent.
Lawmakers are planning to vote on a proposal from Minnesota Republican Rep. John Kline that would tie interest rates to U.S. borrowing rates. To be sure, the policy would increase rates for graduates, but it would also provide some consistency in what has long been a policy fraught with uncertainty.
8. The government can use carrots to incentivize lower tuition costs
In 2012, President Barack Obama outlined a plan to reward colleges that lower costs with campus-based aid. The proposal, which would require congressional approval, would give colleges that offer competitive tuition rates more access to the low-interest Federal Perkins Loan, a new grant competition program, and would increase funding for work-study opportunities.
“Let me put colleges and universities on notice: If you can’t stop tuition from going up, the funding you get from taxpayers will go down,” Obama said at his 2012 State of the Union address. “Higher education can’t be a luxury—it’s an economic imperative that every family in America should be able to afford.”
9. Get the federal government out of the student loan business altogether
Wait, what? It sounds counterintuitive, but hear this out: Contrary to conventional wisdom, conservative and libertarian education policy analysts have long argued that the reason college costs so much is that the government is driving up those costs by subsidizing them in the first place.
Neal McCluskey, associate director of the libertarian Cato Institute’s Center for Educational Freedom, explains that one major reason colleges are doing little to rein in costs is that they don’t have to. Costs continue to rise, and federal subsidies tag right along.
“There are many cost-driving excesses in higher education—luxurious dorms, unused classroom space, growing bureaucracies, expensive academic journals, and the list goes on—that are intermediate causes of the college cost problem,” says McCluskey. “They are all, however, undergirded by a single reality: You can’t charge an arm and a leg unless people can pay it, and to curry favor with colleges, kids, and parents Washington ensures that those limbs keep coming, taking them from taxpayers and giving them to students and schools.”
The growth in federal student aid makes this clear. According to data from the College Board, real federal aid—including grants, loans and tax credits—ballooned from $48.7 billion in the 1996-97 academic year to almost $86.3 billion in 2006-07, a 77 percent leap. On a per-pupil basis, aid per full-time-equivalent student—most of which came through Washington—rose from $6,627 to $9,499, a 43 percent increase. Meanwhile the per-pupil cost of tuition, fees, and room and board rose 29 percent at private four-year schools, from $25,031 to $32,307, and 41 percent at public four-year institutions, from $9,657 to $13,589. In other words, college prices kept rising because aid made sure they could.
10. Crowdsource for more ideas and don’t be afraid to think outside the box
Generation Opportunity, an advocacy group that represents millennials, recently asked its 1.5 million-member Facebook group for ideas about what could be done to lower college costs. The post prompted more than 1,000 responses, from joining the military for scholarship money to working through school without taking on loans.
By Jeff Mason
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Barack Obama will seek to draw attention away from a series of domestic scandals with a speech on Thursday that defends the U.S. use of drones abroad and lays out a vision for closing the military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
After nearly two weeks of controversies about his handling of attacks that killed four Americans in Libya, IRS scrutiny of conservative groups, and government targeting of journalists in leak probes, Obama will try to shift focus with an address that emphasizes his commitment to transparency and desire to shut a prison he promised to close years ago.
The speech, scheduled for 2 p.m. (1800 GMT) at Washington’s National Defense University, is meant partly to illustrate Obama’s support for civil liberties after recent criticism that his administration is secretive and bullies opponents.
It is also aimed at addressing international and domestic pressure over Obama’s counterterrorism policies.
U.S. use of military drone aircraft to attack extremists has increased tensions with countries such as Pakistan and drawn criticism from human rights activists at home.
Obama’s inability to make good on a 2008 campaign pledge to close the Guantanamo Bay prison has been highlighted by a hunger strike by more than 100 of the detainees there, dozens of whom are being force-fed to keep them from dying.
The White House, which has struggled to respond to the scandals that have dominated news coverage for days, signaled Obama would discuss the “ultimate closure” of the prison while outlining a broad counterterrorism strategy to address threats that have changed since the September 11, 2001, al Qaeda-backed attacks on New York and Washington.
“Consistent with his commitment to being open and transparent with the American people, he will speak at length about the policy and legal rationale for how the United States takes direct action against al Qaeda and its associated forces, including with drone strikes,” a White House official said late on Wednesday.
“He will discuss why the use of drone strikes is necessary, legal and just, while addressing the various issues raised by our use of targeted action,” she said.
Obama has faced pressure from left-leaning supporters and right-leaning opponents to allow greater scrutiny of the secretive decision-making process guiding drone use. He said earlier this year he wanted to be more open about the issue.
In a precursor to his address, the administration formally acknowledged on Wednesday for the first time that it had killed four Americans in counterterrorism operations in Yemen and Pakistan, including militant cleric Anwar al-Awlaki.
“You may see some concessions from the president to explain how not only we use and justify targeted strikes but also create procedures and constraints to limit their use,” said Juan Zarate, a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and a former counterterrorism adviser to Republican President George W. Bush.
Reuters reported earlier this week that the administration had decided to give the Pentagon control of some drone operations now run by the CIA. That would put the use of unmanned aerial vehicles against al Qaeda in countries like Pakistan and Yemen under greater congressional oversight.
Officials said Obama would reiterate his commitment to closing the Guantanamo prison and lay out steps to help achieve that goal.
“The president is considering a range of options for ways that we can reduce the population there and move toward ultimate closure, some of which we can take on our own, but some of which will require working with the Congress,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said on Wednesday.
One option, he said, was to reappoint a senior official at the State Department to renew U.S. focus on transferring or repatriating detainees to their home countries.
The White House declined to comment on a report in the Wall Street Journal that the administration was set to restart transfers of detainees from Guantanamo. Obama plans in the coming weeks to lift the administration’s prohibition on sending detainees to Yemen, the paper reported.
Shutting Guantanamo is fraught with difficult legal and political questions.
An aide to House Armed Services Chairman Howard McKeon, a Republican, said Obama would have to give “concrete answers on what the president intends to do with those terrorists who are too dangerous to be released but cannot be tried; how he would ensure that transferred detainees can’t rejoin the fight; and what he will do to detain and interrogate new terrorist captures or those very dangerous terrorists still held in Afghanistan.”
Thomas Pickering, a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations who helped form a bipartisan proposal to close the prison, said Obama had to move forward on closing it, even if he faced obstacles from lawmakers.
The plan he helped form suggests ways to address the remaining detainees, including trying them in civil courts or finding a way to deport them to countries where they would not face torture.
“He has the obligation as president to lead and to take us where he thinks we need to go,” Pickering said of Obama. “My hope is that he would embrace those things or have an even better way to move towards his objective.”
(Additional reporting by Steve Holland, Susan Cornwell and Roberta Rampton, Editing by Alistair Bell and Peter Cooney)
NEW YORK (AP) — The nation’s record-low teen birth rate stems from robust declines in nearly every state, but most dramatically in several Mountain States and among Hispanics, according to a new government report.
All states but West Virginia and North Dakota showed significant drops over five years. But the Mountain States of Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Nevada and Utah saw rates fall by 30 percent or more.
In 22 states, teen Hispanic birth rates plunged at least 40 percent, which was described as “just amazing,” by the report’s lead author, Brady Hamilton of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
What’s driving the declines? No one can say for sure. Experts believe the explanation is complicated and probably varies a bit from state to state. The national figure has been falling since 1991, aside from a brief interruption in 2006 and 2007.
The CDC report released Thursday is based on birth certificates for 2007 through 2011. Last year, the CDC announced the overall improvement in teen births: a record low of 31 births per 1,000 teens ages 15 to 19. That compares to 42 births per 1,000 five years earlier.
The new report focuses on state figures in 2011:
— Lowest rates are in New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Vermont, each with rates under 17 per 1,000.
— Highest rates overall continue to be in the South, led by Arkansas and Mississippi, each with rates of about 50 per 1,000. In Arkansas, the majority of teen births are to white moms. In Mississippi, the majority are black.
— White teens continue to have the lowest birth rate nationally — about 22 births per 1,000. Black teens saw a larger improvement, but their rate was still more than twice the white rate, at 47 per 1,000.
— Overall, the Hispanic rate plummeted from 75 to 49 per 1,000, now virtually a tie with the black rate.
The teen drop in the last five years coincided with an overall decline in births, which experts attribute to a weak economy that dampened enthusiasm for having children.
Hispanic women have been part of that trend, possibly due to the economy and to illegal immigration crackdowns in some states that reduce the number of young Hispanic females entering the country from Mexico and other nations, said John Santelli, a Columbia University professor of population and family health.
That means new immigrants are having less impact on birth statistics, and second- and third-generation families are having more influence.
As time goes on, Hispanics — like other immigrant groups before them — tend to adopt American customs and practices.
“There is more attention on education, career, and the future,” said Dr. Janet Realini, head of Healthy Futures of Texas, a San Antonio-based organization focused on preventing teen and unplanned pregnancies.
Hispanic rates, though, continue to be much higher than those for blacks and whites in most of the states with the largest Hispanic populations, including California, Texas, New York, New Jersey, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Georgia.
Texas has the highest number of teen births in the nation, with nearly 43,000 in 2011. Nearly two-thirds were to Hispanic moms.
The overall improvement, though, is something to celebrate, said Bill Albert, chief program officer of the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy.
“Geography, politics, or policy alone simply cannot explain the widespread declines,” Albert said in an email. “Credit goes to teens themselves who are clearly making better decisions about sex, contraception, and their future.”
CDC report: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/
DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) — A government investigation found that “extremely” poor quality construction materials and a series of violations caused the collapse of a garment factory building in Bangladesh that has been called the worst garment-industry disaster in history, the committee head said Thursday.
Last month’s disaster killed more than 1,100 workers and highlighted the hazardous working conditions in Bangladesh’s $20 billion garment industry and the lack of safety for millions of workers who are paid as low as $38 a month.
“The owner used extremely poor quality iron rods and cement,” committee head Khandker Mainuddin Ahmed told The Associated Press a day after submitting the report to the government. “There were a series of irregularities.”
The report found that building owner Sohel Rana had permission to build a six-story structure and added two floors illegally so he could rent them out to garment factories. Past statements from authorities said the owner had permission for a five-story structure and added three floors illegally.
The report also said the building was not built for industrial use and the weight of the heavy garment factory machinery and their vibrations contributed to the building collapse. Those factors had previously been cited.
The ground on which the building was built was not fit for a multi-story building, the report said.
“A portion of the building was constructed on land which had been a body of water before and was filled with rubbish,” Ahmed said.
The committee recommended that Rana and the owners of the garment factories be sentenced to life in jail if they are found guilty of violating building codes.
Rana, three engineers and four factory owners have been arrested.
The building was shut down briefly after workers spotted cracks in its walls and pillars a day before the April 24 collapse. But the garment factory workers were called back to work, many of them forcefully.
More than 2,500 people were rescued shortly after the disaster. The committee urged the government to ensure that all those injured receive free medical treatment.
Anwar al-Awlaki, shown in Yemen in October 2008, was killed in a U.S. drone strike. (Muhammad ud-Deen/AP file)Attorney General Eric Holder informed Congress on Wednesday that the U.S. has killed four Americans in drone strikes since 2009: radical cleric Anwar al-Awlaki and three others who were “not specifically targeted.”
Holder’s disclosure, first reported by the New York Times, came a day before President Barack Obama was to defend his counterterrorism strategy in an afternoon speech at National Defense University. Obama was slated to focus on drone strikes—which have sparked anger across the Muslim world and increasingly tough questions in Congress—and on his broken promise to close the Guantanamo Bay prison for suspected extremists.
Separately, the Wall Street Journal reported that Obama planned to lift a ban on sending prisoners from Guantanamo to Yemen. The administration prohibited transfers to Yemen out of concern that, once there, they might carry out attacks or radicalize other Yemenis.
The administration will also resume transferring detainees to their home countries that the Pentagon has cleared for release, the paper reported.
Eighty-six of the 166 Guantanamo detainees have been cleared. Of those, 56 are from Yemen. But the first transfers will likely be of prisoners not from Yemen, the Journal reported, citing U.S. officials.
There is little appetite in Congress for closing the brig. Republicans and some Democrats have opposed doing so. And lawmakers of both parties were sure to scrutinize the attorney general’s letter on drones.
“The President has directed me to disclose certain information that until now has been properly classified,” Holder said in a letter to Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., that was made public by the administration.
“Since 2009, the United States, in the conduct of U.S. counterterrorism operations against al-Qa’ida and its associated forces outside of areas of active hostilities, has specifically targeted and killed one U.S. citizen,” Awlaki, Holder wrote.
“The United States is further aware of three other U.S. citizens who have been killed in such U.S. counterterrorism operations over that same time period,” he wrote. “These individuals were not specifically targeted by the United States.”
Awlaki was killed in a drone strike in Yemen on Sept. 30, 2011. His 16-year-old-son, Abdulrahman Anwar al-Awlaki, was killed in another strike two weeks later. Obama was “surprised and upset and demanded an explanation” for the second attack, according to a new book about the president’s counterterrorism strategy.
Two other Americans, Samir Khan and Jude Kenan Mohammed, were also killed in drone attacks, Holder wrote.
The letter also went to the heads of the armed services, intelligence, foreign relations, and judiciary committees of the Senate and House of Representatives, as well as the chambers’ top Republican and Democratic leaders.
A White House official confirmed that the disclosure was timed “to coincide with the speech the president will give tomorrow, in which he will discuss our broader counterterrorism strategy—including the policy and legal rationale for our use of targeted, lethal force against al-Qaida and its associated forces.” It also reflects Obama’s commitment “to pursue greater transparency around our counterterrorism operations,” the official said on condition of anonymity.
Holder also disclosed for the first time that Congress knew early on about plans to kill Anwar al-Awlaki.
Top officials “briefed the appropriate committees of Congress on the possibility of using lethal force against al-Aulaqi,” Holder wrote. “Indeed, the Administration informed the relevant congressional oversight committees that it had approved the use of lethal force against al-Aulaqi in February 2010 -well over a year before the operation in question -and the legal justification was subsequently explained in detail to those committees, well before action was taken against Aulaqi.”
And the attorney general said key congressional committees will be briefed on a document that institutionalizes what he called “exacting standards and processes” for deciding when to capture or kill a suspected extremist “outside the United States and areas of active hostilities.”
The human rights group Amnesty International reacted with alarm.
“No one should be reassured by Attorney General Holder’s letter to Senator Leahy,” Zeke Johnson, the organization’s director of Security with Human Rights, said in a statement.
“The Obama administration continues to claim authority to kill virtually anyone anywhere in the world,” he said. “An independent investigation into all alleged extrajudicial killings should begin immediately, with remedy for any killings found to be unlawful.”
Leahy said on Wednesday he had spoken to Holder. “I appreciated his briefing about the letter and other matters. I will be reviewing it, among other materials, and look forward to the president’s address,” the senator said.
By disclosing that the administration is looking to write formal rules for drone strikes and making another stab at closing Guantanamo Bay, Obama is keeping promises he made in his State of the Union.
“I recognize that in our democracy, no one should just take my word for it that we’re doing things the right way,” he said in that speech. “So in the months ahead, I will continue to engage Congress to ensure not only that our targeting, detention and prosecution of terrorists remains consistent with our laws and system of checks and balances, but that our efforts are even more transparent to the American people and to the world.”
He’s also giving a nod to concerns from Americans—including many in his Democratic base—uneasy with both his targeted assassination policy and the prospects of keeping prisoners locked up forever without charge or trial.
Obama’s speech on Thursday also comes as key lawmakers are looking at revising the post-9/11 law that underpins virtually every aspect of the so-called war on terrorism.
The law, best known as the Authorization for Use of Military Force, or AUMF, sailed through Congress by overwhelming votes shortly after the 2001 terror attacks. It gave the president the power “to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.”
Critics—from human rights and civil liberties groups to influential members of Congress—have argued that the legislation is outdated and that the executive branch has used it for purposes beyond its original intent.
“The fact is that this authority … has grown way out of proportion and is no longer applicable to the conditions that prevailed that motivated the United States Congress to pass the Authorization for the Use of Military Force that we did in 2001,” Republican Sen. John McCain told a Pentagon witness at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing last week.
White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters on Wednesday that Obama recognizes the “absolutely valid and legitimate” criticisms and concerns about his drone policy. And the president agrees “there need to be structures in place that remain in place for successive administrations so that in the carrying out of counterterrorism policy, procedures are followed that allow it to be conducted in a way that ensures that we’re keeping with our traditions and our laws.”
And the speech itself reflects Obama’s desire to shape the debate.
But the White House attitude toward a rewrite of the AUMF has undergone several changes.
In March, spokesman Josh Earnest said the legislation did not need any updating.
“At this point, we feel like we have the authorities we need to go after elements of al-Qaida and those self-identified enemies of the United States and our allies and our interests, and we’re doing that very aggressively in order to protect the American people and our interests,” Earnest said by phone in response to a question from Yahoo News.
By early May, with Congress apparently ready to work on changing the AUMF with or without the White House, the message had changed.
“The Administration welcomes continued engagement with Congress on critical national security issues questions relating to the conflict with the Taliban and al-Qaida,” National Security Council Spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden told Yahoo News in an email.
By Patrick Lannin and Philip O’Connor
STOCKHOLM (Reuters) – Hundreds of youth have torched cars and attacked police in four nights of riots in immigrant suburbs of Sweden‘s capital, shocking a country that dodged the worst of the financial crisis but failed to solve youth unemployment and resentment among asylum seekers.
Violence spread from the North to the South of the city on Wednesday as groups of youth pushed through Stockholm‘s suburbs casting stones, breaking windows and setting cars alight. Police in the southern Swedish city of Malmo said two cars had been set ablaze.
Local media said a police station office was set on fire in the southern suburb of Rågsved, where several people were also detained. No one was hurt and the fire was quickly put out.
The attackers have awaited nightfall before setting out, defying a call for calm from the country’s prime minister and damaging stores, schools, a police station and an arts and crafts centre in the four days of violence.
“I think there is a feeling that we need to be in more places tonight,” said Towe Hagg, spokeswoman for Stockholm police. One police officer was injured in the latest attacks and five were arrested for attempted arson.
Selcuk Ceken, who works at a local youth activity centre in Hagsatra, said between 40 and 50 youths threw stones at police and smashed windows, then ran off in different directions. He noted the people were in their 20s and seemed well organized.
“It’s difficult to say why they’re doing this,” he said. “Maybe it’s anger at the law and order forces, maybe it’s anger at their own personal situation, such as unemployment or having nowhere to live.”
The riots appear to have been sparked by the police killing of a 69-year-old man wielding a machete in the suburb of Husby this month, which prompted accusations of police brutality. The riots then spread from Husby to other poor Stockholm suburbs.
“We see a society that is becoming increasingly divided and where the gaps, both socially and economically, are becoming larger,” said Rami Al-khamisi, co-founder of Megafonen, a group that works for social change in the suburbs.
“And the people out here are being hit the hardest … We have institutional racism.”
The riots were less severe than those of the past two summers in Britain and France but provided a reminder that even in places less ravaged by the financial crisis than Greece or Spain, state belt-tightening is toughest on the poor, especially immigrants.
“The reason is very simple. Unemployment, the housing situation, disrespect from police,” said Rouzbeh Djalaie, editor of the local Norra Sidan newspaper, which covers Husby. “It just takes something to start a riot, and that was the shooting.”
Djalaie said youths were often stopped by police in the streets for unnecessary identity checks. During the riots, he said some police called local youths “apes.”
The television pictures of blazing cars come as a jolt to a country proud of its reputation for social justice as well as its hospitality towards refugees from war and repression.
“I understand why many people who live in these suburbs and in Husby are worried, upset, angry and concerned,” said Justice Minister Beatrice Ask. “Social exclusion is a very serious cause of many problems, we understand that.”
After decades of practicing the “Swedish model” of generous welfare benefits, Stockholm has been reducing the role of the state since the 1990s, spurring the fastest growth in inequality of any advanced OECD economy.
While average living standards are still among the highest in Europe, successive governments have failed to substantially reduce long-term youth unemployment and poverty, which have affected immigrant communities worst.
Some 15 percent of the population are foreign-born, and unemployment among these stands at 16 percent, compared with 6 percent for native Swedes, according to OECD data.
Youth unemployment in Husby, at 6 percent, is twice the overall average across the capital.
The left-leaning tabloid Aftonbladet said the riots represented a “gigantic failure” of government policies, which had underpinned the rise of ghettos in the suburbs.
As unemployment has grown, the anti-immigrant Sweden Democrats party has risen to third in polls ahead of a general election due next year, reflecting many voters’ worries that immigrants may be partly to blame.
ASYLUM NUMBERS RISING
While many of the immigrant population are from Nordic neighbors closely tied to Sweden by language or culture, the debate has tended to focus on poor asylum seekers from distant war zones.
Out of a total 103,000 immigrants last year, 43,900 were asylum seekers, almost 50 percent up from 2011. Nearly half of these were refugees from fighting in Syria, Afghanistan or Somalia, and will get at least temporary residency.
Among 44 industrialized countries, Sweden ranks fourth in the absolute number of asylum seekers, and second relative to its population, according to U.N. figures.
Policing in Stockholm has already been the focus of controversy this year, with allegations that police were picking out darker-skinned immigrants for identity checks in subway trains.
(Additional reporting by Johan Ahlander, Simon Johnson, Niklas Pollard and Mia Shanley; Writing by Alistair Scrutton; Editing by Kevin Liffey and Cynthia Osterman)
Elena Marquez, center, and others at a rally to call on Congress to pass immigration reform. (Joe Raedle/Getty …
It’s been a good week for proponents of immigration reform. The sweeping bill that seeks to legalize most of the country’s 11 million unauthorized immigrants was passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday night, after five full days of debate and amendments that did little to significantly change the original compromise.
So, what’s next for the bill?
It is likely to be introduced on the Senate floor as early as June 3, and lawmakers will be able to propose more changes to the legislation there. Meanwhile, a secretive bipartisan group in the House also may release a competing immigration bill, though members are divulging few details about what their proposal will look like.
Immigrant advocates are worried the Senate reform bill may face a tougher crowd in the Republican-led House than it has so far in the Senate.
Ben Monterroso of the Service Employees International Union said advocates worry that GOP House members, all already in election mode for 2014,”are going to play to the base.”
“I’m not sure that the extremists [in the House] are going to allow this process to go without a fight,” Monterroso said.
Overall, the bill moved slightly to the right during its trip through the Senate committee. Republicans on the 18-member Senate Judiciary Committee were able to push through a few modest amendments that beefed up some of the border security provisions of the original bill, as well as loosening restrictions on and increasing the amount of visas for the high-tech industry to hire foreign workers.
Unions were unhappy with the high-tech visas amendment but willing to live with it. “We appreciate the work done by the Gang of Eight, as well as all those senators—both Democrats and Republicans—who engaged in good faith in the arduous job of advancing this bill,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka in a statement. “We applaud the progress by the Judiciary Committee, but we will still work to make a good bill even better.”
Meanwhile, liberal groups expressed disappointment that the bill does not yet include a provision to allow people in same-sex marriages to be able to sponsor their spouses for green cards. Sen. Patrick Leahy, a Democrat of Vermont, withdrew the amendment this week after being warned it could disrupt the fragile bipartisan coalition that supports immigration reform.
Though the bill remained largely unchanged in the Senate committee, three main issues have emerged as major potential sticking points that could derail the bill in the coming months:
1. The low-skilled worker compromise
Both the Chamber of Commerce and the AFL-CIO are defending their hard-fought compromise over how many low-skilled workers will be allowed in the country each year under the law. The groups negotiated for nearly a year over this provision, which allows up to 200,000 temporary, noncollege-educated workers into the country each year based on business needs. Any significant changes to this plan could cause one or both of the groups to walk.
“It’s very carefully crafted, and it is not subject to change,” Tom Snyder, campaign manager for the AFL-CIO’s Citizenship Now campaign, said on Wednesday. “We’re going to resist any change in that bill.”
Some free-market conservatives want the number of visas to be higher to allow businesses easier access to labor, while more protectionist Republicans align with some Democrats in saying the number is too high and could drive down wages for American-born workers. Both business and labor say this compromise is a delicate balance that cannot be disrupted by politicians without serious consequences for the bill.
2. The pathway to citizenship
Key Democrats—including President Barack Obama and Sen. Harry Reid—have insisted from the beginning of the process that any immigration reform bill must include a pathway to citizenship for the nation’s unauthorized immigrants.
During the markup, Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas offered an amendment to change the bill so that the unauthorized immigrants would be legalized but not eligible for citizenship. It failed. Some House conservatives also have expressed support for a similar plan, however, so it’s possible the push could be duplicated in the House.
3. The border security trigger
A key dispute among conservatives right now centers around the enforcement and border security provisions of the Senate bill. The bill requires some key benchmarks to be met before any of the nation’s unauthorized immigrants are allowed to apply for permanent residency, which leads to citizenship. But immigrants can gain temporary legal status in the meantime, which allows them to work legally. Under the bill, a group of Southwest border leaders, including governors and law enforcement officials, would have to certify that the border is “secure” before the green card process begins. E-verify, which employers will be required to use to check the immigration status of workers, also will have to be in effect.
But some Republicans, including Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa, want to move up this timetable so that none of these immigrants can legalize his or her status before these benchmarks are met. That would most likely delay the current 12-year path to citizenship in the bill by several years and alienate liberal support for the bill. Grassley’s proposal to change the bill in this way failed in the markup, but it could be introduced again on the Senate floor or be duplicated in the House.
Some Republicans also believe the border should be declared close to impermeable before the legalization process begins.
DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Investigators searching for a 15-year-old Iowa girl who was abducted this week have recovered her backpack along with one belonging to a 12-year-old who escaped from the kidnapper.
The Iowa Department of Public Safety said a search team of police and dogs found the backpacks Tuesday afternoon.
Kathlynn Shepard and the 12-year-old girl were abducted Monday by 42-year-old Michael Klunder while walking home from school in Dayton. The backpacks were found in a rural area, several miles south of a hog confinement where the girls were taken.
Police say Klunder was found dead of self-inflicted injuries hours after the 12-year-old escaped. Police are searching for Kathlynn around Dayton, about 60 miles north of Des Moines.
Investigators also released an image of Kathlynn exiting a school bus, shortly before her abduction.