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Jessica Prois   |   March 11, 2013   12:43 PM ET

A forum this week is bringing together global leaders to tackle education solutions for the approximately 139 million children who are missing out on schooling worldwide.

During the inaugural Global Education and Skills Forum in Dubai March 14-17, world leaders including Bill Clinton and Tony Blair will be discussing private-public partnerships to improve education equity.

Former President Clinton will deliver the keynote address and will answer questions from Twitter in partnership with Varkey GEMS Foundation, a nonprofit that empowers underserved children worldwide, for which he serves as honorary chairman. Clinton, who tackles global education issues through his Clinton Global Initiative and Clinton Foundation, has long stressed the need for providing greater education opportunities.

The global forum will cover topics including new technologies, technical and vocational education and solutions to pressing issues such as empowering girls. Attending world leaders have stressed the power of education-related public-private partnerships as a means to stability.

The Director General of UNESCO, Irina Bokova said in a release: “Global companies have their global interests. But there is something new coming about, and that’s the common understanding that it’s in the private sector’s interest that people are well educated.

The Varkey GEMS Foundation CEO Vikas Pota has called for a disruption in education in a similar way global heath issues such as polio have been tackled by NGOs. Pota wrote in a blog:

"The overwhelming evidence points to the inability or motivation of governments to challenge the status quo. Are NGO's able to leverage their expertise?"

The Global Education and Skills Forum is in partnership with organizations including UNESCO, the UAE Ministry of Education and the Varkey GEMS Foundation.

Huffington Post Impact is a media partner for the Global Education and Skills Forum. Impact will exclusively live stream the event Friday, March 15 at 10:45 a.m. EST. Tweet #AskClinton to have your question considered, and follow @GemsEducation for updates.

Bill Clinton and DOMA: The Indelible Stain on a Presidency

Michelangelo Signorile   |   March 8, 2013    3:10 PM ET

A stain on Bill Clinton's presidency that will never be blotted out is his signing of the Defense of Marriage Act in 1996. Today, in an op-ed, Clinton asked the Supreme Court to overturn DOMA, which, he and his defenders like to point out, he signed late at night with no fanfare. It's certainly a great thing for an ex-president to weigh in with a reversal and give his opinion to the Supreme Court. And I commend Clinton for his evolution. But that doesn't remove this damaging act from Clinton's legacy, nor certainly the harm that that one law caused for almost 20 years.

Clinton has at various points engaged in revisionist history in offering the reasons why he signed DOMA after the GOP pushed the law through Congress. The most disingenuous attempt was in 2009 when he, following on claims a year earlier by Hillary Clinton's campaign, stated that Democrats were trying to stop a constitutional amendment from being passed. In fact, gay activists cannot recall any mention of a constitutional amendment until years later.

''That's complete nonsense," Evan Wolfson of Freedom to Marry told Metro Weekly in 2011. "There was no conversation about something 'worse' until eight years later. There was no talk of a constitutional amendment, and no one even thought it was possible -- and, of course, it turned out it wasn't really possible to happen... That was never an argument made in the '90s.''

The reason Bill Clinton signed DOMA is, quite simply, because he refused to be leader on a civil rights issue, irrationally fearful of the ramifications of vetoing the bill and rationalizing the damage caused by signing it. That refusal to take leadership really goes back to day one of his presidency. That was when he signaled to the GOP, like a frightened person on the street signals fear to a barking dog, that he was deathly afraid of the gay issue and would not be a leader on it.

In the first few days of his presidency in 1993, Clinton blinked. Rather than sign an executive order ending the ban on gays and lesbians in the military, as he'd promised during the campaign -- and just as he signed various directives reversing anti-abortion policy of the Bush years -- Clinton bowed to the GOP and conservative Democrats like Georgia Senator Sam Nunn. We ended up with the loathsome "don't ask, don't tell" law, which in the end was no better than the outright ban.

Would the GOP and anti-gay Democrats have reacted harshly and passed a law banning gay service if Clinton had signed the executive order? Perhaps. But Clinton would have defined himself as a leader on the issue and could have helped to change public opinion. Instead, the gay issue was something he ran away from during the rest of his presidency and which the GOP knew he was vulnerable on and would use over him every time. That was when what Joe Sudbay calls "political homophobia" took hold -- when our supposed friends run from us, irrationally fearful of the political ramifications of embracing gay equality.

What if Clinton had decided to lead on the gay issue rather than bow? We'll never know for sure, but it's ridiculous to think Bill Clinton would have lost reelection over the gay issue, no matter what happened. And it's highly probable that his leadership could have helped change minds. In 1996, when he signed DOMA into law, Clinton was well ahead of Bob Dole in the polls. Anybody who would vote against him because he vetoed DOMA was already voting against him.

LGBT leaders of the time are to blame as well because they allowed Clinton and his administration to cravenly perpetuate political homophobia (which was carried with Rahm Emanuel and others into the first years of the Obama administration, too). LGBT leaders may have spoken against the signing of DOMA at the time, but they rallied around Clinton, continuing to raise money for him and making the case to the community to get out and vote for the man who'd just signed a law against them. There were no ramifications for Clinton of any kind from the gay community.

Contrast that to the Obama years. Though some in the Obama administration, including the president himself, were fearful of the gay issue early on, grass roots LGBT activists made it known that it was unacceptable. Members of groups like Get Equal chained themselves to the White House fence and interrupted Obama's speeches, while big donors withheld money. They made it clear that this was not the way to make his base enthusiastic heading into his re-election campaign.

Obama was pushed to the take the lead, and he did. Sure, public opinion was in a much different place on gay issues in 1993 and 1996 than it is now. But it was also in a different place in 2008, when Obama took office, and even in 2011, when Obama came out for marriage equality. The president's support of gay marriage -- his decision to take a leadership role on the issue -- helped push public opinion dramatically. Rather than hurt him, the issue helped to galvanize his base. BIll Clinton's presidency had enshrined political homophobia in Democratic politics, and it took almost 20 years for it to begin to diminish.The Defense of Marriage Act is part of that legacy.

You Are Not a Person, Anwar al-Awlaki

Peter Van Buren   |   March 5, 2013    1:47 PM ET

Though I spent 24 years working for the State Department as a Consular Officer, charged in part with the issuance and (very rarely) revocation of U.S. passports, there is still room to learn something new: The Government of the United States can, and apparently does, take away passports from American Citizens because "The Secretary of State determines that the applicant's activities abroad are causing or are likely to cause serious damage to the national security or the foreign policy of the United States."

If the government feels it is against its interest for you to have a passport and thus the freedom to travel, to depart the United States if you wish to, it will just take it away. The law allows them to do this prospectively, the "or are likely to cause..." part of the law, meaning you don't need to have done anything. The government just needs to decide that you might.

Al-Awlaki

We learned via a Judicial Watch Freedom of Information Act request that prior to having him and his 16 year old son away blown away via drone in 2011, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton secretly revoked the passport of Anwar al-Awlaki, al Qaeda propagandist and U.S. Citizen. The State Department even tried to invite al-Awlaki into the U.S. Embassy in Yemen so they could hand him a letter announcing the revocation and so that they could encourage him to return to the U.S. to face charges. Six months later (al-Awlaki never dropped by the Embassy, by the way), the U.S. Government simply killed him. Two weeks after that it killed his 16 year old son.

Phillip Agee

I have been unable to track down many recent examples where the U.S. Government revoked the passport of an American simply because his/her presence abroad bothered-- or might bother-- the Secretary of State. In fact, the only example I was able to locate was that of infamous ex-CIA officer Phillip Agee, who in the 1970's exposed CIA officers identities. It was Agee's case that prompted a Supreme Court review of the Department of State's ability to revoke passports simply because the government didn't want you to travel abroad (the Supreme's upheld the government's ability to do so based on a 1926 law after lower courts said no. The Court stated that "The right to hold a passport is subordinate to national security and foreign policy considerations.")

Agee was a naughty boy. According to the Supreme Court:

In 1974, Agee called a press conference in London to announce his "campaign to fight the United States CIA wherever it is operating. He declared his intent "to expose CIA officers and agents and to take the measures necessary to drive them out of the countries where they are operating." Since 1974, Agee has, by his own assertion, devoted consistent effort to that program, and he has traveled extensively in other countries in order to carry it out. To identify CIA personnel in a particular country, Agee goes to the target country and consults sources in local diplomatic circles whom he knows from his prior service in the United States Government. He recruits collaborators and trains them in clandestine techniques designed to expose the "cover" of CIA employees and sources. Agee and his collaborators have repeatedly and publicly identified individuals and organizations located in foreign countries as undercover CIA agents, employees, or sources. The record reveals that the identifications divulge classified information, violate Agee's express contract not to make any public statements about Agency matters without prior clearance by the Agency, have prejudiced the ability of the United States to obtain intelligence, and have been followed by episodes of violence against the persons and organizations identified.

We Will Never Know

In Anwar Al-Awlaki's case, the Government has not made much of a case (never mind for the passport, remember he was murdered by a drone). In fact, officially, we do not know why al-Awlaki was killed at all, or under what laws or by what decision process. Some reports tie him to the failed idiot underwear bomber, but being part of a failed plot seems not to rise to the usual standard for capital punishment. It is all secret.

The Government of the United States executed one of its own citizens abroad without any form of due process. This is generally seen as a no-no as far as the Bill of Rights goes. The silly old Fifth Amendment to the Constitution guarantees "no person shall be deprived of life without due process of law" and includes no exceptions for war, terrorism, or being a really bad human being.

Could the passport revocation have been simply a ruse, a bureaucratic CYA attempt at providing some sort of illusion of "due process?" Could al-Awlaki's not dropping by the U.S. Embassy to chat about his passport have been a veiled attempt to justify his killing in that he was thus not able to be arrested? Or was the passport revocation just a simple act of dehumanizing someone to make killing him that much more palatable?

We'll never know.

Sequester Insanity

Joe Peyronnin   |   February 20, 2013    8:19 AM ET

It is doubtful that Congress and the White House will reach a budget agreement in time to avoid the deep mandatory cuts, known as the "sequester," from going into effect at the end of next week. The consequences, according to many economists, could be disastrous for the already anemic American economy.

Conventional wisdom currently is that the sequester deadline will pass and then Washington will come up with some sort of compromise solution. Perhaps just in time for the next self-inflicted crisis, the threat of a federal government shutdown on March 27 if Congress does not approve funding.

At the heart of this crisis is the debate over how to reduce the annual deficits that Washington continues to rack up. The national debt is currently $16.5 trillion, or about $50,000 for each citizen.

On Tuesday, Erskine Bowles and former Wyoming Senator Alan Simpson released their new deficit reduction plan, which they say splits the difference between President Barack Obama and House Republicans. Their plan would reduce the deficit by $2.4 trillion dollars over the next decade.

Bowles worked in the Clinton administration, and Simpson was a highly respected Republican Senator. They served as co-chairmen of the White House's 2010 deficit-reduction panel, which put together a bipartisan package of tax and spending changes that was rejected by both the administration and Congressional Republicans.

The Bowles-Simpson plan includes $600 billion in cuts from Medicare and Medicaid, $600 billion in new tax revenue from ending or reducing deductions and breaks, and $1.2 trillion in cuts to discretionary spending, along with cuts in cost-of-living increases for Social Security, the farm program and civilian and defense retirement programs. Bowles-Simpson 2.0, as it is being called, sharply reduced tax revenues from their original plan, perhaps in an effort to win over some Republicans.

In the current deficit debate, the White House favors a $1.5 trillion package that includes smaller cuts in social programs, investments in education, new technologies and infrastructure, and additional revenues achieved by closing tax loopholes. Republicans say they will propose a $4 trillion package of cuts that they claim will result in a balanced budget in 10 years, although they have not provided details. But Republicans have ruled out any further tax revenues.

Meanwhile, some economists question making deep cuts in federal spending at a time when the nation's economic recovery is so weak. They point to failed austerity measures in European countries, like England, which slipped back into another recession.

A compromise like the Bowles-Simpson plan seems appropriate for the country to avoid further calamity. "Our plan is not perfect, but it can serve, we believe, as a mark for a bipartisan deal," Mr. Bowles told reporters Tuesday morning. However, it is unlikely that the plan will receive any traction in Washington.

So, at the end of next week, the sequester is likely to go into effect. It calls for $85 billion in across the board cuts, and gives the government little discretion in how to enact them. The president called it a "meat cleaver" approach, warning that national security and vital services will be reduced, resulting in furloughs for border patrol agents, first responders, teachers and air traffic controllers.

With Congress on a break, no negotiations are underway. Instead, Congressional leaders are pointing fingers and playing the blame game. On Tuesday, House Speaker John Boehner said, "Words alone won't avert it. Replacing the president's sequester will require a plan to cut spending that will put us on the path to a budget that is balanced in 10 years. To keep these first responders on the job, what other spending is the president willing to cut?"

No wonder a recent Quinnipiac poll showed that 72 percent of American registered voters disapprove of the way Congressional Republicans are doing their job. And now Republicans are ready to bring the country to its knees rather than compromise on a more balanced budget deal to avert the latest Washington manufactured crisis. This is insanity.

Second Verse, Same as the First?

Andrei Cherny   |   February 19, 2013    8:52 PM ET

President Obama chose to begin his State of the Union address last week with a quotation from President Kennedy. It was appropriate and well-chosen. However, the agenda that he presented to the nation brought to mind another of Kennedy's quotes, this one from his 1960 campaign. A standard line in JFK's stump speech was that the Republican Party reminded him of its mascot: a "circus elephant, with his head full of ivory, a long memory and no vision." What went unsaid but left to his audience to infer was that the pachyderms invariably had to be trailed by a man with a shovel to clean up the mess.

It was a similar - and similarly unpleasant task - that occupied much of President Obama and President Clinton's first terms in the aftermath of the Great Recession and the double-dip recession of the early 1990s, respectively. In both men's presidencies, a stabilizing economy at the start of their second terms made it possible for them to speak to propose to the nation a longer term and broader set of ideas. Having been privileged to be part of President Clinton's post-reelection White House, what was remarkable to me in listening to this year's State of the Union address was how much of President Obama's new agenda had a familiar ring.

Whether it was raising the minimum wage, strengthening infrastructure, promoting research and innovation, providing high-quality preschool to every child in America, making college more affordable, addressing climate change, stemming gun violence, or even passing specific legislation such as the Violence Against Women Act and the Paycheck Fairness Act much of the 2013 State of the Union address picked up - even with the same words - where the 2000 State of the Union speech left off.

Yet while aspects of the agenda may be similar, the moment is very different. The intervening years between Clinton and Obama were not simply a pause but a detour - a devastating attack on the country, two painful wars, runaway deficits, economic policies that tilted away from middle class opportunity, and ever more corrosive politics.

The broadly shared growth and yawning budget surpluses of the end of the Clinton presidency have not yet reappeared, and it is doubtful we will see them soon. That means that some of the more ambitious elements of the Clinton agenda of 2000 - such as new universal retirement savings accounts to supplement Social Security - are now out of reach. "Of all sad words of tongue or pen," wrote John Greenleaf Whittier, "the saddest are these: 'It might have been!'"

The question, however, is what yet might be. That is because more has changed in the intervening years than our economic and budgetary situation. The partisan polarization already well in evidence in Congress in the late 1990s has been overtaken by an ideological polarization. The ranks of moderate Republicans, Blue Dogs, and New Democrats have dramatically thinned. Where Clinton could laugh about "the seesaw" he was witnessing in his 2000 speech with Democrats giving ovations at some points and Republicans providing them at others, Speaker Boehner and his Republicans could scarcely be roused to their feet to applaud what once would have been considered common sense.

Though the times are different, a president's agenda can still speak to that dynamic. So much of what was said in 2000 and in 2013 overlapped, but just as important as the specific programs was Obama's eloquent plea to address Medicare spending in a balanced way by appropriating the targets of the Bowles-Simpson commission. In doing so, he echoed the passion Clinton demonstrated for approaches such as reinventing government and reforming welfare - ideas that broke the mold and broke out of the traditional contours of the two party debate.

Perhaps it is too late to recreate "the seesaw" of the late 1990s, but these types of ideas are crucial to building a new long-term governing majority among the independents distrustful of the stalest parts of both parties' programs.

"The era of big government is over, but we can't go back to a time when our citizens were just left to fend for themselves," said Clinton in his 1996 State of the Union address. "It's not a bigger government we need, but a smarter government that sets priorities and invests in broad-based growth," argued Obama seventeen years later. What passed between their presidencies took America in a wrong direction in so many ways. In his 2013 State of the Union address, Obama held out the promise of building the bridge to a better 21st century.

Mollie Reilly   |   February 18, 2013   10:15 AM ET

Hillary Clinton will begin giving paid speeches this year, Politico's Mike Allen reported Monday.

Clinton, who retired as U.S. secretary of state earlier this month, is joining the Harry Walker Agency and is expected to earn fees in the six-figure range. However, Politico reports that she will likely speak for no fee on behalf of causes she supports, and will donate some of her earnings to charity.

The agency confirmed the news on its website Monday morning.

"We are proud to share the exciting news that Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has joined the Harry Walker Agency exclusively for her speaking engagements," reads the announcement.

Former President Bill Clinton, also represented by Harry Walker Agency, has had a lucrative career on the speaking circuit since exiting the White House in 2001. In 2011, he earned $13.4 million from speaking fees, increasing his total speaking earnings to $89 million over 10 years.

Other notable political figures at the agency include Al Gore, Dick Cheney, Joe Lieberman, Howard Dean, and Karl Rove.

Hillary Clinton is expected to join the paid speaking circuit in April or May.

As speculation swirls about whether or not she will run for president in 2016, Clinton has insisted she intends to take a break from politics after her busy four years at the State Department. In addition to her new speaking gig, she has also announced plans to write another memoir, focusing on her time as secretary of state.

  |   February 15, 2013    5:29 PM ET

The story revealing that FreedomWorks produced a video with an obscene scene featuring a giant panda, Hillary Clinton, and oral sex created quite a stir and, according to former officials of the influential tea party group, had staffers at the conservative advocacy group and super-PAC "freaking out," as one put it.

  |   February 4, 2013    9:42 AM ET

Message to the Republican Party: Be afraid, be very afraid.

MATTHEW LEE   |   February 1, 2013    7:42 AM ET

WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is leaving office with a slap at critics of the Obama administration's handling of the September attack on a U.S. diplomatic mission in Libya. She told The Associated Press that critics of the administration's handling of the attack don't live in an "evidence-based world," and their refusal to "accept the facts" is unfortunate and regrettable for the political system.

In her last one-on-one interview before she steps down on Friday, Clinton told the AP that the attack in Benghazi was the low point of her time as America's top diplomat. But she suggested that the furor over the assault would not affect whether she runs for president in 2016.

Shame on You, Goldman Sachs. Now Here's Your Bonus

Robert Scheer   |   February 1, 2013    4:46 AM ET

Here's a get-out-of-jail-free card, and while we're at it, take this obscenely huge bonus for having wrecked the economy. As the inspector general for the Troubled Asset Relief Program pointed out in a devastating report this week, "excessive" compensation was approved by the Treasury Department for the executives of the three companies that required the largest taxpayer bailouts to survive.

In a stinging rebuke of Timothy Geithner's Treasury Department, the report "found that once again, in 2012, Treasury failed to rein in excessive pay." Whopping pay packages of $5 million or more were allowed by the Treasury Department for a quarter of the top executives at AIG, General Motors and Ally Financial, the former financial arm of GM.

But that's nothing compared with the $21 million for last year's work garnered by Lloyd Blankfein, CEO of Goldman Sachs, which is now free of TARP supervision. In addition to his paltry $2 million in salary, Blankfein received a $19 million bonus for his efforts. Not quite the $67.9 million bonus he got in 2007 before the market crash that his firm did so much to engineer, but times are still hard.

Goldman was the training ground for Robert Rubin and Henry Paulson, the two Treasury secretaries who did their best to grease the skids for Wall Street hustlers. It was Rubin under President Bill Clinton who pushed to get the law changed to allow investment banks like Goldman to become commercial banks, and it was Paulson under President George W. Bush who permitted Goldman to take advantage of that loophole and partake in the low interest Fed money available to the commercial banks. Throw in the AIG bailout that allowed the passage of billions of dollars to Goldman, and you get the picture.

What you may not know, and file this in the gallery of the terminally shameless, is the role of James A. Johnson, the longest serving director of Goldman Sachs and chairman of its compensation committee that awarded Blankfein his outrageous bonuses. Before being named a director at Goldman, Johnson served as the CEO of Fannie Mae when the once public-spirited federal housing agency joined forces with Countrywide CEO Angelo Mozilo and other mortgage scam artists in initiating the great housing bubble.

Back in 1996, Johnson had named Mozilo to be chair of Fannie Mae's National Advisory Council, and together they cooked up a deal in which Fannie Mae came to rely on Countrywide's proprietary CLUES software for short-circuiting the mortgage qualification process. Thus was born the housing mortgage debacle that to this day has haunted the economy.

Countrywide announced its "Strategic Agreement with Fannie Mae" in a press release that all but predicted the subsequent housing crisis:

The objective is to expand markets to accommodate more customers and streamline loan processing in order to reduce the upfront cost of homeownership. This entails increased acceptance of Countrywide's proprietary CLUES underwriting technology, greater usage of short form appraisals, expansion of streamlined loan products, flow sales for expanded criteria loans, and guideline waivers.

That history became inconvenient back in 2008, when Democratic candidate Barack Obama picked Johnson, a lifelong Democrat, to head the search for a vice presidential candidate. Turns out Johnson was one of the beneficiaries of the new streamlined loan processing system, being what was known inside Countrywide as a "friend of Angelo," entitled to fast-track approval on loans. As a result, Obama had to drop him, but not so Goldman Sachs, where Johnson had landed as a director and remains today as the chairman of the firm's compensation committee.

They do flock together, and so it makes perfect sense that Johnson would approve the enormous bonus for Blankfein. In the end, it doesn't matter whether these folks are Democrats or Republicans, nor whether they are operating at the highest levels of government or banking -- they take care of their own. It is the new model of crony capitalism that must have Adam Smith turning in his grave, for it has nothing to do with free-market performance.

The invisible hand of that primitive and pure free market so celebrated in the folklore of capitalism as the essence of efficiency and productivity has been replaced by the all too visible hand of the fixer, who can combine government power and corporate profits to game the system. Yes, visible. Just observe how easily folks such as Rubin, Paulson and Johnson move through the revolving door between corporate and government power undeterred by critical media notice. And now it is Geithner's turn.

PHOTOS: Hillary's Best Moments Abroad

Eline Gordts   |   January 31, 2013    3:21 PM ET

On Friday, Hillary Clinton is handing over the keys of the State Department to John Kerry, and at least in one respect, Mme. Secretary's legacy will be hard to beat.

Clinton is the most traveled Secretary of State in the department's history, having covered a record 956,7333 miles over the course of her four-year term.

CBS explains that Clinton broke the record formerly held by Madeleine Albright, who led the State Department from 1997 to 2001. Albright took 96 trips during her term, while Clinton made more than a hundred visits abroad.

And in those trips, there sure were some magical moments: Hillary hugging Sarkozy; Hillary surrounded by handsome Indian men; Hillary dancing in Malawi; Hillary dancing in South Africa; Hillary in Kenya -- dancing, again.

Take a look at Hillary Clinton's best moments abroad in the slideshow below. We wish her lots of sleep (and very little jet lag) in the coming years.

DAVID BAUDER   |   January 28, 2013    5:26 PM ET

NEW YORK — With limited time and the unusual nature of a dual appearance with President Obama and outgoing Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, CBS' Steve Kroft said Monday said he thought it important to focus on their professional relationship instead of specific questions about world events.

Kroft said CBS was surprised when the White House suggested the appearance a little more than a week ago. The interview was conducted Friday and aired Sunday on "60 Minutes."

Luke Johnson   |   January 23, 2013   11:39 AM ET

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) criticized Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Wednesday during the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing over the terrorist attack in Benghazi, Libya, that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.

"I'm glad that you're accepting responsibility," said Paul. "I think ultimately with your leaving that you accept the culpability for the worst tragedy since 9/11. And I really mean that."

"Had I been president and found you did not read the cables from Benghazi and from Ambassador Stevens, I would have relieved you of your post. I think it's inexcusable," he said, referencing Clinton's comments that she had not read all of the documentation surrounding the attack.

"I think we can understand you're not reading every cable," Paul said. He added that he didn't suspect Clinton of "bad motives" but said that it was a "failure of leadership."

Clinton responded, "I am the Secretary of State. And the [Accountability Review Board] made very clear that the level of responsibility for the failures that they outlined was set at the Assistant Secretary level and below."

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) rebuked Paul in the next exchange. "If some people on this committee want to call this tragedy the worst since 9/11, it misunderstands the nature of 4000 plus Americans lost in the War in Iraq under false pretenses."

All Good in the Hood: Hell's Kitchen

Yvonna Russell   |   January 11, 2013    1:27 PM ET

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Our 9th Avenue Stiles Market is closing. As luxury high-rise buildings grow around the ethnically, culturally and economically diverse Hell's Kitchen neighborhood, many small businesses have closed or relocated. We have some delicious newcomers: Casellula, Merilu Pizza al Forno, Totto Ramen, Bar Centrale, and Shorty's. But I want to give a shout out to the old spots in the hood. Amy's Bread has great breads and so much more. This time of year the line outside her shop goes down the block for her yummy fragrant soups, sandwiches and salads.

A great spot for watching games and kicking back burgers and beers, Mr. Biggs's is the neighborhood bar. The owner Scott Sternick annually hosts a free Thanksgiving dinner for anyone in need. Everyone has a favorite pie at Little Pie Company. Mine is the Apple Walnut Sour Cream pie heated with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Hell's Kitchen has many Thai restaurants, but I love the tiny Olieng Thai. Decorated in American memorabilia, The Cupcake Café is the place to sip cappuccino or coffee and indulge in the beautiful butter cream frosted cupcakes or cake. Tucked on the of side 51st Street near Tenth Avenue, Ezra Cohen presides over Azuri Cafe in his tiny space that seats 10 people max. Ezra serves the best and freshest falafel plates to a loyal following. Insatiable Critic Gael Greene stopped by recently.

Scentelate shelves carry the finest in aromatherapy, fragrances, incense and collectible Lampe Bergere. The go to guy for bike repair is Enoch at his 10th Avenue shop, Enoch Bikes. Fresh Cut owner Robert McKinnon designs beautiful floral arrangements for the table, event or terrace. Raconteur Jean Claude is the host of the glamorous Chez Josephine serving French, American and soul food cuisine in an opulent setting. Classic Frankie and Johnnie's Steakhouse is the place for a great macho dinner. Go to El Azteca for the lethal margaritas and shrimp tacos. Owner Pat Robustelli has the best New York slice at Pateriza.

Any diva or hairdresser will tell you Ray's Beauty Supply is the spot for hair products, equipment and worth the trip for sale bins of nail polish and beauty products. I almost hate to share Blossom Salon but love the chicas who excel at hair care with deep conditioning treatments, hair color and roller sets at affordable prices. Sea Breeze Market has the freshest seafood in the city. Westerly Natural Market stocks the best in organic and natural foods, supplements and products. Restaurant 44 & X is cool and elegant with delicious signature American cuisine and excellent wines. Check it out and add your suggestions below. I'm going out now. Writing this post has made Mama hongray!