The U.S. government has renewed its effort to shut down Guantánamo Bay, but the two men who were recently released aren't celebrating. On Thursday the Pentagon announced two detainees were transferred to their home country of Algeria, though they said they fear prosecution and would rather stay in Cuba. A State Department spokesman said they're confident that Algeria will "abide by lawful procedures." Wells Dixon, a lawyer for one of the men, countered that they're just "numbers on a spreadsheet" for the agency. "I think the State Department doesn’t care if it ruins their lives," he added. They've been held since 2002 and never charged, so that seems like a good bet.
In his remarks on the death of the South African icon, President Obama described himself as "one of the countless millions who drew inspiration from Nelson Mandela's life." While the outpouring of condolences affirmed that everyone from John Boehner to Justin Timberlake was touched by the story of the prisoner turned president, many stars shared personal recollections of the man himself, and how his work impacted their lives. Read on for some of the most interesting tributes, from Joe Biden on visiting South Africa under apartheid to Ian McKellen on lobbying Madiba about gay rights.
The class of 242 newly minted New York City firefighters that graduated from the fire academy on Thursday was the most diverse one ever to do so, consisting of 62 percent minorities. Twenty-four percent are black and 36 percent are Hispanic, The New York Times reports. Good news for the fire department, which has not always had the best image in this area.
When we first heard that New Jersey waitress Dana Morales, who claimed a family had stiffed her on a tip and left a homophobic note instead, had made the whole thing up, we tried to give her the benefit of the doubt. Morales had claimed she was donating the contributions people sent her in solidarity to the Wounded Warrior Project, so whatever her motive for the hoax, it didn't look financial. But now it seems not even that part was true, as Bridgewater Patch discovered on Thursday (h/t Gawker): "A Wounded Warrior representative checking for donations by her name and the ZIP codes for Bridgewater, where the restaurant is located, and Bedminster, where Morales said she lives, was unable to find any matching donations." If we still wanted to give Morales the benefit of the doubt, we'd point out she could have donated anonymously from elsewhere. But we don't.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who rarely shows emotion (unless it is annoyance at reporters or anger at the Board of Elections), reportedly choked up during his eighth and final speech to the Association for a Better New York. It was when he mentioned his unborn grandson and the inscription on the Statue of Liberty, "give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses," that his voice quivered, according to the New York Post. "That is what I want ... for my little grandson and all the generations to come," he said. So the third terminator is human after all.
In an interview with Chris Matthews on Thursday, his first since 2008, President Obama discussed a wide range of topics, from Edward Snowden to Healthcare.gov. However, when asked to "compare and contrast" Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden's presidential qualities, the president quipped "Not a chance am I going there." (5:20 below.) Obama said they'd both make "outstanding" presidents, and avoided giving any sign of which one he loves best (though we're pretty sure it's Biden). "I think Joe Biden will go down in history as one of the best vice presidents — ever," Obama said. "And he has been with me, at my side, in every tough decision that I've made, from going after Bin Laden to dealing with the health care issues to — you name it, he's been there."
Bill de Blasio's aversion to the A.M. caught up with him again on Thursday, as the mayor-elect arrived at a 10 a.m. event late for the third day in a row, to the great annoyance of the reporters who follow him. Especially galling: His team told members of the media to show up between 9:15 and 9:45 a.m. to cover his announcement of Bill Bratton as NYPD commissioner. "Let me say that there are limits to even our patience," seethed the ever-even-keeled WNYC host Brian Lehrer, according to Politicker.
The legendary Nelson Mandela, who went from prison to the presidency while uniting South Africa, passed away today at the age of 95. Remember the iconic fighter as a giant of the twentieth century, with calm elegance and an unforgettable smile.
It's common knowledge that Nelson Mandela served 27 years in prison, helped usher in the end of Apartheid, and was elected the first black president of South Africa in 1994. As incredible as those accomplishments are, they are far from the totality of why people all over the world are mourning his passing today at the age of 95. For those too young to remember Mandela's historic fight for racial equality (and didn't even manage to catch Invictus), here's a primer on some of the most fascinating aspects of the beloved icon's life story.
John Boehner is teaching Republicans how to talk to women, Politico reports. “When you look around the Congress, there are a lot more females in the Democrat caucus than there are in the Republican caucus,” the Speaker of the House observed. His solution? Sensitivity training. “Some of our members just aren’t as sensitive as they ought to be.” Boehner’s top aides met recently with Republican staff to discuss how lawmakers should talk to female voters, especially the ten male Republican Representative incumbents who will face female Democratic challengers in 2014. (Quickly: Compliment her shoes, ask whether she's Team Peeta or Team Gale, promise not to legislate her ovaries.) “Let me put it this way,” a staffer who attended the session told Politico, “some of these guys have a lot to learn.”
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