On November 26, the Obama administration put forward new anti-smog regulations that should prevent thousands of premature deaths and heart attacks every year. About two weeks later, Obama’s appointees at the Federal Reserve implemented new rules curbing reckless borrowing by giant banks that will reduce profits and shareholder earnings but increase the safety of the financial system. Yet both of these were minor stories compared to normalizing relations with Cuba after decades and his sweeping plan to protect millions of unauthorized immigrants from deportation. Somewhere in the meantime, Democrats broke the congressional logjam and got a whole boatload of nominees confirmed.
It has been, in short, a very busy and extremely consequential lame-duck session. One whose significance is made all the more striking by the fact that it follows an electoral catastrophe for Obama’s party. And that is the Obama era in a microcosm. Democrats’ overwhelming electoral win in 2008 did not prove to be a “realigning” election that handed the party enduring political dominance. Quite the opposite. But it did touch off a wave of domestic policymaking whose scale makes Obama a major historical figure in the way his two predecessors won’t be.
All too often, Cuba is visually portrayed as nothing more than a tropical time machine, a place where the people and their lives aren’t nearly as interesting as the relics surrounding them.
234: The number of bills passed by the 113th Congress, the lowest recorded total in congressional history. The number is down 18 percent from the 112th Congress and about four times less than the 80th in 1947-1948, which President Harry Truman dubbed the “Do-Nothing Congress.”
Jaws dropped in Springfield’s Court Square Tuesday afternoon when Springfield City Councilor Bud Williams offered his take on the annual city menorah lighting ceremony.
“Jesus is the reason for the season,” Williams said during remarks at the ceremony that marks the beginning of the Jewish holiday of Hanukkah.
Following short speeches by Congressman Richard Neal of Springfield and Mayor Domenic Sarno, who both touched on the history of religion in Springfield, Williams was handed the microphone and uttered the line that had people talking long after the ceremony ended.
Williams no doubt was referencing Jesus Christ, whose birth is celebrated every Dec. 25 by Christians worldwide … but not by Jews.
City Councilor Bud Williams said he wasn’t engaging in religious triumphalism when he uttered “Jesus is the reason for the season” at Tuesday afternoon’s Hanukkah menorah-lighting ceremony in Springfield.
Williams, a Baptist, made the remark during a Court Square event attended by Mayor Domenic Sarno, Congressman Richard Neal, city dignitaries, and leaders of the greater Springfield Jewish community, all of whom gathered at the downtown park to mark the Dec. 16 start of the eight-day Jewish Festival of Lights.
“I thought it added something to the service, it didn’t take away,” Williams said Tuesday night.
The city councilor said he referenced Jesus Christ, whose birth is celebrated every Dec. 25 by Christians worldwide but not by Jews, after participants in the ceremony mentioned “the bright light” of 2,000 years ago - an allusion to Christ, according to Williams.
“They said it,” Williams said.
The councilor said his remark wasn’t meant as an expression of religious superiority or “dominance,” but rather as a simple reminder about the “reason for the season.”
“Jesus was Jewish,” Williams said. “To me, Jesus is the messiah … I thought I was being very positive.”
Williams said some people thanked him for his remarks. “A couple of the rabbis walked up to me and said, ‘Great comments, Mr. Williams.’ “
Momentum is building for a resumption of peace talks on Ukraine, after the European Union and United States noted an apparent softening of Russia’s stance towards the Kiev government and its conflict with pro-Moscow separatists.
Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko said a preparatory video conference should take place today and tomorrow between representatives of Kiev, Moscow, the rebels in eastern Ukraine and the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe. “I hope this group will be able to meet on Sunday in Minsk,” Mr Poroshenko said during a visit to Poland.
He made the announcement after a four-way call with the Russian, French and German leaders, in which the Kremlin said they agreed that talks on “implementing the Minsk pact” should resume “as soon as possible.” An agreement reached in the Belarusian capital in early September reduced but failed to halt clashes in Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk regions, where fighting since April has killed more than 4,600 people and displaced about 1 million.
He said that suspected Boko Haram militants had seized young men, women and children from Gumsuri village.
The attack happened on Sunday but news has only just emerged, after survivors reached the city of Maiduguri.
Meanwhile, Cameroon’s army says it has killed 116 Nigerian militants who had attacked one of its bases, AFP reports.
Residents told the BBC the armed militants attacked the border town of Amchide on Wednesday, arriving in two vehicles and many others on foot.
President Vladimir Putin addressed Russia’s currency crisis for the first time, saying it would take as long as two years to emerge from its economic woes, as he blamed external factors for the rouble’s rout but acknowledged that more should have been done to diversify the struggling economy.
Speaking at his annual press conference on Thursday, Mr Putin also said capital controls were not being planned and that the economy, which is being pummelled by falling oil prices and western sanctions over Russia’s involvement in the Ukraine crisis, would adapt to its new reality. Despite the economic turmoil, Mr Putin remained defiant over Russia’s foreign policy and his stance on the Ukraine crisis.
“The economy will adjust to life and work in the conditions of the low oil prices,” he said. “If prices will be low — $60 per barrel, $40 per barrel even, the figure doesn’t matter — the economy will restructure. The question is how quickly the adjustment will happen.”
Reminder: VOA is controlled directly by the US Government.
Media reports say U.S. authorities have linked last month’s crippling cyber attack against Sony Pictures Entertainment to North Korea. The attack was made to pressure the studio into canceling the release of a film that parodies North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. The incident is familiar to companies in South Korea, which have a history of being targeted by the North.
Simon Choi, a cyber security researcher at an anti-virus company in Seoul called Hauri Incorporated, studied the malware codes used to hack into the Sony Corporation’s computer system. He said the codes are similar to the ones used in a cyber attack on South Korean media companies in 2012.
Just a gentle reminder that Sony is not a US company, and the “cave-in to terror” doesn’t belong to us. It belongs to Sony’s CEO, Kazuo Hirai. On the other hand in Japan they’ve directly experienced terror from North Korea in the form of threats, missile launches, and kidnappings of Citizens.
North Korea’s subsequent hack — which released tons of cringe-worthy emails — also revealed that Sony Corp’s CEO Kazuo Hirai was unusually involved in the production of “The Interview” after North Korea called the movie an “act of war” after seeing promos for it.
In fact, Hirai “broke a 25-year tradition” by interfering with the production of the irreverent comedy starting Seth Rogen and James Franco, The New York Times has reported. Generally, an executive from parent company Sony Corp. wouldn’t insert himself into the decisions of the company’s usually independent studio, Sony Pictures.
Hacked emails cited by The Times showed that Hirai told the studio to tone down a scene showing Kim’s head exploding. Seth Rogen sent an email to Sony Pictures executives that apparently addressed Hirai’s concerns about the exploding head.
My favorite line:
One of humanity’s strongest urges is to solve problems, right? God, I hope so, because that’s the least misanthropic thing I’m going to say in this article.
Maybe Futurama’s Bender was onto something when he said that everyone’s a jerk.