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  • wri-rough-justice-tease

    Rough Justice: The Rise and Fall of Eliot Spitzer

    Author Peter Elkind, entranced by “the chasm between public image and private reality” (page vii), follows Eliot Spitzer’s rapid rise and faster fall. He’s the two-faced politician at its finest. Public Eliot was a beacon of justice, the scrappy David taking down the Goliaths of Wall Street, the insurance industry, and yes, even prostitution—all while Private Eliot deceived his wife, advisers, and the people he served by sneaking off to rendezvous with $1,000-an-hour escorts.
  • Transatlantic Flight Diverted to Maine After Unruly Passenger Mentions Explosives

    A Delta Airlines transatlantic flight made an unscheduled landing in Maine on Tuesday after an unruly passenger made threatening comments involving explosives, according to three federal officials who asked for anonymity when talking about an incident still under investigation. The Paris-to-Atlanta flight, Delta 273, was diverted to Bangor after the passenger, who has not yet been identified publicly, apparently announced that he was in possession of explosives and a fake passport. Initial indications are that the plane was roughly 60 to 90 minutes away from Bangor at the time, probably somewhere over Canada, says one of the federal officials. All three officials say that the man was subdued by Federal Air Marshals who had been assigned to provide security for that particular flight....
  • Feds Say Armed Man Arrested Near Obama Was Cop Wannabe

    An armed man was arrested Sunday at a North Carolina airport where President Obama's plane was about to depart, but federal authorities now believe the man was only a harmless police wannabe. Joseph Sean McVey was arrested after his car, equipped with police lights and a conspicuous array of radio equipment, much of it obsolete, pulled up outside the security perimeter of the Asheville Regional Airport, according to a federal law-enforcement official, who requested anonymity when discussing sensitive information. Air Force One is said to have been taxiing in preparation for takeoff, carrying the president and his entourage. ...
  • Gun-Dealer Case Sheds New Light on Hutaree Antigovernment Hatred

    A Michigan-based firearms dealer indicted this week on an unrelated federal gun charge had sold about a half  dozen weapons to members of the extremist Hutaree militia group that was plotting to assassinate police, a federal law-enforcement official tells Declassified.  ...
  • New Attention Being Paid to Bank of North Dakota

    As Washington tries to regulate Wall Street's newfangled derivatives, government officials in at least a dozen states are mulling a more old-school response to the financial crisis: 100 percent state-run banks. Since 1919, North Dakota has operated the nation's only depository of this kind, a genuinely socialist enterprise that spins tax revenues into loans for in-state farmers, students, and small-business owners. Unlike other banks, the Bank of North Dakota (BND) plows about half its profits into the state budget and takes cues from the governor, who acts as chairman, and a seven-member advisory board that the governor appoints.In normal times, such a bank might not be politically palatable. Now, however, it's emerging as an attractive model for lawmakers—in large part because North -Dakota flourished during the recession, with the nation's lowest unemployment rate (about 4 percent) and one of the largest budget surpluses (more than$1 billion). Some of the state's well-being is...
  • New York: When Nurses Strike, People Die

    The nation's nursing shortage is sure to be exacerbated soon by an uptick in stitches and surgeries that, prior to health-care reform, many Americans likely would have gone without. In years past, hospital administrators have tried to close the labor gap by demanding double shifts and tacking on extra responsibilities. Concerned about being too taxed to do their jobs well, nurses have walked out at least 750 times in recent decades, making the profession among the most strike-prone in the country.But the consequences of these stoppages have never been fully clear until now. A new study published by the National Bureau of Economic Research shows that during 50 strikes at New York state hospitals between 1984 and 2004, patients were almost 20 percent more likely to die—a bump in mortality that translates to about 140 deaths. The study "surprises me," says Becky Patton, president of the American Nurses Association. But, Patton says, she still supports hardball tactics if management...
  • Montana vs. the Justice Department

    State lawmakers have done a lot since President Obama's election to shake off Uncle Sam, passing "sovereignty" resolutions and a record number of laws that specifically defy Congress on issues such as legalized marijuana and health-care reform. Most make the same claim: that the U.S. Constitution gives the federal government power to regulate commerce between states but doesn't permit interference in purely local affairs. Later this year, the Montana Firearms Freedom Act, which proclaims that guns manufactured in Montana and sold in state are not subject to federal rules such as background checks, is slated to become the first of these Obama-era commerce challenges tested in court. But the case, which originated when a gun-rights group sued the Justice Department for threatening a crackdown, shouldn't give separatists hope: it's doomed to fail, as will similar rebukes.That's because no state is an island (Hawaii included), and Congress can regulate anything that could jump state...
  • Has Syria Really Delivered New Missiles to Hizbullah?

    U.S. national-security officials say they have no confirmation of Israeli claims that Syria has delivered or is in the process of delivering new, longer-range Scud missiles to the radical Lebanese Shiite group Hizbullah. Although Syria may have begun making preparations to do so, U.S. intelligence reporting indicates that no such shipments have actually occurred, two senior U.S. officials tell Declassified, requesting anonymity when discussing sensitive information. According to the officials, the U.S. government's assessment is that Israelis' public complaints were a ploy to deter the Syrians from going ahead with the deliveries—a strategy that's working so far, the U.S. government believes....
  • Quote of the Day: BFD Embarrassed Biden

    “Damn, I was just thankful my mother couldn’t hear it or see it. It was a little embarrassing … I realized there was a microphone, but I had no idea it was that sensitive … And after it was over, we walked out and we got in the limo to go over to another event, and he was laughing like the devil.” —Vice President Joe Biden, explaining his BFD gaffe during the health-care bill signing and President Obama’s humorous take on the situation. 
  • Obama's Financial-Reform Speech Short on Specifics

    President Obama tried to capitalize on the growing anger against Wall Street during this morning's speech at Cooper Union in New York, where he urged politicians and bankers not to impede the financial-reform bill currently working its way through the Senate. "Unless your business model relies on bilking people, there's little to fear from these new rules," he said to the audience of roughly 700 people, including two top executives from Goldman Sachs, the investment bank the SEC recently sued for fraud....
  • Obama Won't Pull Punches on Wall Street

    Over at Wealth of Nations, Gaggle pal Sarah Ball's got a previewer of the president's speech to Wall Street today. After rounding up thoughts from the blogosphere, a very clear take on what he'll have to convey: Read the piece here.
  • What Obama's Cooper Union Audience Says About Financial Regulation

    There's a sense that political momentum has shifted in favor of financial reform. For example, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has backed off earlier statements he made about starting over from scratch, and a derivatives-regulation measure even won the vote of one Republican, Iowa's Chuck Grassley, in committee yesterday....
  • wri-afghanistan-tease

    Afghanistan: A Cultural and Political History

    Thomas Barfield delivers a one-stop, full accounting of Afghanistan’s geography, people, and history. If it weren’t so painstakingly researched and intensely assembled, it could be called “Afghanistan for Dummies.” He starts in the premodern era and sweeps up through the present day.
  • Quote of the Day: President Obama

    "I don't have litmus tests around any of these issues, but I will say that I want somebody who is going to be interpreting our Constitution in a way that takes into account individual rights, and that includes women's rights, and that is going to be something that is very important to me." —President Obama on whom he'll nominate for the Supreme Court slot being vacated by John Paul Stevens. Read more about the Court at The Gaggle's Race for the Robe.
  • Underpants Bomber Inspires New Counterterrorist 'Pursuit Team'

    In the wake of the failed Christmas Day underpants bombing attempt, the government's National Counterterrorism Center has set up a new "pursuit team." Its main objective: to spot and pull together fragmentary and inchoate threat information like the scraps of information the government had gathered but failed to assemble before the Dec. 25 close call....
  • Feds Lose Top Al Qaeda Expert

    One of the federal government's most knowledgeable experts on Al Qaeda and related terror phenomena quietly left the government within the last few weeks. Philip Mudd, a career CIA analyst, had been serving on special assignment at the FBI as associate executive assistant director of the bureau's national-security branch since 2005; previously, he had served in various analytical positions at the CIA, including as a deputy national-intelligence officer for Near East and South Asia issues and, following the 9/11 attacks, as deputy chief of the CIA's Counterterrorism Center. In his most recent jobs at both the CIA and FBI, Mudd was so highly regarded as a specialist on Islamic terrorism that his departure from government service to private industry will represent a major loss of institutional memory for the entire government's counterterrorism apparatus. In an e-mail to Declassified on Wednesday, Mudd confirmed that he had left the government, adding, "I had a great tour, and ...
  • Holder's Dilemma: Will Justice Have to Pay Money to a Terrorist Organization?

    Of all the tricky decisions Attorney General Eric Holder is facing right now, here's one that has lawyers at the Justice Department really scratching their heads. All things being equal, they would love nothing more than to let stand a federal judge's recent decision that President Bush's warrantless-wiretapping program was illegal, thereby avoiding further legal skirmishes over one of the Bush administration's most divisive legacies. But unless they appeal last month's landmark decision by Judge Vaughan Walker, the U.S. government may be forced to pay damages into the bank account of one of the plaintiffs in the case: an Islamic charity that has been formally declared a global terrorist organization. Can the Justice Department pay money to a terrorist organization? And if it did, would it be committing the federal crime of providing "material support" to terrorists? "They've got a dilemma," says Jon Eisenberg, lawyer for the Al...
  • U.S. Military Says It's Positive It Killed Insurgent Leader Whose Existence It Once Doubted

    The U.S. military in Iraq says the American command there is positive that raids it conducted with Iraqi security forces over the last weekend killed both Abu Ayyoub al-Masri and Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, alleged two most senior leaders of Al Qaeda's Iraqi affiliate. "We can confirm with certainty that Masri and [Hamid Dawud Mohammad Khalil] al-Zawi [the supposed real name of Baghdadi], were killed," said Maj. Gen. Stephen R. Lanza, a spokesman for U.S. Forces In Iraq, in an e-mail sent to Declassified on Tuesday afternoon. He said that U.S. forces were able to confirm the identities of the dead men "through DNA testing, photo identification, finger print verification, and known scars." He added: "We have extreme confidence that these are the two individuals."...
  • Does Death Prove Iraqi Al Qaeda Leader Existed?

    U.S. and Iraqi forces may have announced the killing of Abu Omar al-Baghdadi—but U.S. military authorities once publicly questioned the existence of any such person. In a May 3, 2007, press briefing, Lt. Gen. William Caldwell, then a top U.S. military spokesman in Baghdad, was asked about the reported capture or death of two top leaders of Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI): Baghdadi and Abu Ayyub al-Masri. Caldwell denied that U.S. forces were holding Masri, an Egyptian jihadist who succeeded Jordanian-born Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi as AQI's military supremo after Zarqawi's death in June 2006. And as for Baghdadi, reputedly the highest-ranking Iraqi-born AQI leader, Caldwell said, "If that person even exists . . . We have nobody in our possession or know of anybody that does, either alive or dead, that is going through any kind of testing or analysis at this point." Caldwell said later: "We're not really sure who that is. There's a lot of discussion about a...