NSA surveillance of foreign leaders could torpedo a U.S.-European trade deal, thus depriving John Boehner the lower Merlot prices he was so looking forward to . In the latest example of Democratic tyranny, the Senate confirmed by a strong majority a world renowned economist to be the next Fed chair. And one Republican congressional candidate compared the homophobic star of "Duck Dynasty" to Rosa Parks. However we're more partial to the radical stylings of Ted Nugent, the Malcolm X of our time. This is HUFFPOST HILL for Friday, December 20th, 2013:
OBAMA GIVES MILITARY ULTIMATUM ON SEXUAL ASSAULTS - And if there's one thing the Obama administration has proven to be adept at, it's deadlines. Laura Bassett: "President Obama issued a stern statement on the problem of military sexual assault on Friday, telling military leaders they have one year to 'step up their game exponentially' in preventing and responding to sexual assault cases. Congress passed a defense authorization bill on Thursday night that includes some military sexual assault reforms, but does not go so far as to take those cases out of the chain of command. Obama said the onus is now on Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and other military leaders to carry out those changes and produce results. 'I have also directed that they report back to me, with a full-scale review of their progress, by Dec. 1, 2014,' Obama said. 'If I do not see the kind of progress I expect, then we will consider additional reforms that may be required to eliminate this crime from our military ranks and protect our brave service members who stand guard for us every day at home and around the world.' Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) has fought to remove sexual assault cases from the chain of command because victims have testified that they do not trust their commanders to handle those cases effectively without retaliating. The Pentagon estimates that 26,000 incidences of unwanted sexual contact occurred in the military in 2012, but only about 3,000 were reported, and only about 300 of those led to prosecutions." [HuffPost]
Congress.gov is just one more reminder that people love weed.
YELLIN NOMINATION ADVANCES IN SENATE - Great day for the Illuminati. AP: "The Senate has cleared the way for Janet Yellen to succeed Ben Bernanke as head of the Federal Reserve. Senators voted 59-34 Friday to end debate on the president's nomination of Yellen. Approval is expected Jan. 6, the day the Senate returns from winter recess. The 67-year-old Yellen will become the first woman to lead the Fed in its century-old history. She will also be the first Democrat to lead the Fed since Paul Volcker left in 1987. Yellen is currently vice chair of the Fed. Bernanke told reporters that Yellen supported the Fed's decision this week to gradually reduce the monthly bond purchases the Fed has been making to goose the economy. The move comes amid signs the economy is improving." [AP]
Can we just take a minute to drink in this line: "Senators voted 59-34 Friday to end debate on the president's nomination of Yellen." Back in the day, we used to call that a defeat.
Divide deepens among Democrats on Iran - Greg Sargent: "At his presser today, President Obama reiterated his opposition to Congress passing any bill now imposing new sanctions on Iran. He repeated that his goal is to prevent Iran from gaining nuclear weapons, and said he would prefer to accomplish this through diplomacy, adding: “I would think that would be the preference on Capitol Hill.” Translation: By imperiling the prospect of a long term diplomatic solution curbing Iran’s nuclear program, Congress would be making war more likely." [WaPo]
@JeffreyGoldberg The Iranian regime is aware of the existence of the Senate Banking Committee. There's no need to actually pass new sanctions now.
DAVE DOWNER: POLITICAL ELITE'S CHAUFFEURS TIRED OF BEING TREATED LIKE DIRT - Dave Jamieson: "Working for Sunny's Executive Sedan Service, Ishaku Atam and his friends have chauffeured some of the biggest political figures of our time throughout Washington: Hillary Clinton, John McCain, John Kerry and Newt Gingrich, to name a few. Escorting such esteemed guests comes with many responsibilities, not the least of which is: Be sure to smile. That's often been the toughest part of the job, but not because of any outsized egos in the back seat. The drivers' beef is with the home office. Atam and 24 other one-time Sunny's drivers have accused the company of systematically ripping them off as they drove their clients, including guests bound for appearances on Fox News, CNN and MSNBC. Given the atmosphere of luxury cultivated in Sunny's sedans, the big-name politicians and talking heads would have no idea of the conditions under which the drivers are working, Atam told HuffPost. In complaints laid out in federal court, the drivers allege that Shafqat Iqbal Chaudry, aka Sunny, cheated them out of wages by misleading them as to what he billed the networks and other clients in his 50-driver sedan business. The suits allege that he pocketed much of the gratuity charges that customers would have assumed went to the drivers. And the drivers also claim Chaudry made them pay for gasoline, even though clients were billed for gas surcharges, and buy accoutrements, like bottled water and soda, for the sedans from him at marked-up prices." [HuffPost]
Haircuts: Eliot Nelson (h/t Eliot Nelson). Haircutweek: Jeff Young (h/t Jeff Young).
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NEW OBAMACARE DELAY ANNOUNCED - CBS News: "The government's move to delay for some people a requirement to buy medical insurance raised new doubts about the already chaotic rollout of President Barack Obama's signature healthcare law, just days before an enrollment deadline. In another technical setback on Friday for the main website for enrollment, HealthCare.gov, U.S. officials said it would be down for a few hours to repair an error that occurred overnight. The Obama administration said late on Thursday that people who have had their insurance plans canceled because of new standards under health policy reforms may be able to claim a 'hardship exemption' to the requirement that Americans have coverage by March 31, or face a penalty. While several million people have received policy cancellations, U.S. officials estimate that fewer than 500,000 would be affected by this delay in the so-called individual mandate. The mandate is a core part of the 2010 Affordable Care Act, commonly called Obamacare, that aims to provide coverage to millions of uninsured Americans." [CBS]
SHOT: "Obamacare's most crucial deadline thus far is mere days away, sparking a mad dash as Americans seek health coverage for 2014 and put the system to its toughest test yet. Consumers, insurance companies and federal and state authorities are scrambling ahead of Monday, the last day people in nearly all states have to choose a health insurance plan that is guaranteed to be in place on Jan. 1... The coming days could strain the insurance exchanges, rendering a stark verdict on whether the Obama administration's weeks-long effort to fix HealthCare.gov was enough to handle an expected surge in people trying to get a health plan, while working through backlogs of pending applications. Failure would mean more than frustration for people trying to get covered, as those who fall through the cracks will be at risk of huge medical expenses if they become ill or injured in 2014." [HuffPost's Jeff Young]
WATERED-DOWN CHASER: "More than 500,000 people enrolled into health coverage via the federal government's health insurance exchanges this month, President Barack Obama said during a news conference Friday...If these trends are real, it would result in a surge of new enrollments by the Dec. 23 deadline. In California, enrollments reached 17,000 a day at the beginning of the week, Covered California, the state's exchange, reported Thursday. New York, Kentucky, Connecticut and other states also say enrollments are increasing." [Jeff Young]
NEW SNOWDEN DOCS: NSA EVEN SPIED ON ISRAELI AND BUSINESS LEADERS - And those two groups can do NO wrong! NYT: "Secret documents reveal more than 1,000 targets of American and British surveillance in recent years, including the office of an Israeli prime minister, heads of international aid organizations, foreign energy companies and a European Union official involved in antitrust battles with American technology businesses. While the names of some political and diplomatic leaders have previously emerged as targets, the newly disclosed intelligence documents provide a much fuller portrait of the spies’ sweeping interests in more than 60 countries. Britain’s General Communications Headquarters, working closely with the National Security Agency, monitored the communications of senior European Union officials, foreign leaders including African heads of state and sometimes their family members, directors of United Nations and other relief programs, and officials overseeing oil and finance ministries, according to the documents. In addition to Israel, some targets involved close allies like France and Germany, where tensions have already erupted over recent revelations about spying by the N.S.A. Details of the surveillance are described in documents from the N.S.A. and Britain’s eavesdropping agency, known as GCHQ, dating from 2008 to 2011. The target lists appear in a set of GCHQ reports that sometimes identify which agency requested the surveillance, but more often do not." [NYT]
::Tugs on shirt collar with finger:: Yeeeeeeeeesh: "The latest revelation from Edward Snowden that British spies targeted a European Commission official could create another headache for negotiators in ongoing talks over a United States-E.U. trade agreement. The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership agreement would ease regulatory barriers across the Atlantic -- but tech companies worry Europe will push for 'digital protectionism,' such as a requirement to store European citizens' data on servers in Europe." [HuffPost's Matt Sledge]
AMERICA CAN BE REALLY MESSED UP SOMETIMES - Amanda Terkel: "Embattled 'Duck Dynasty' star Phil Robertson has been suspended from his show by A&E for his remarks about gays and African-Americans, and now some high-profile conservatives are rallying to his side and defending him. On Friday, GOP congressional candidate Ian Bayne went all in, comparing Robertson to civil rights icon Rosa Parks. 'In December 1955, Rosa Parks took a stand against an unjust societal persecution of black people, and in December 2013, Robertson took a stand against persecution of Christians,' Bayne said in an email to supporters. 'What Parks did was courageous,' he added. 'What Mr. Robertson did was courageous too.'" [HuffPost]
Seriously, whadda country: "Facing criticism for his suggestion that poor children should be made to do manual labor in exchange for school lunches, Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) attempted to clarify his position Friday, saying he never meant to single out low-income students...'I did not specify clearly that this was not an indictment on anybody in a particular socio-economic group. This would be good for all children ... There are schools in which kids do clean the table after they eat. There's one in Alexandria, Va. In Chatham County, you have to have 20 hours of community service in order to graduate,' he said." [HuffPost]
WAPO'S EZRA KLEIN CONSIDERING STARTING A NEW VENTURE - We, for one, welcome our new Kleinington Post overlords. Michael Calderone: " Ezra Klein, a top Washington Post policy writer and editor of the paper’s Wonkblog, is currently speaking to outside suitors about starting a new media venture, according to a source familiar with the matter. At the same time, Klein is still in talks with the Post about possible next steps in his career, and he may end up staying at the paper, the source said. Klein declined to comment. If he does decide to leave, his departure would be a major blow to the Post, where he's built an influential and popular brand within the newsroom over the past few years. On Wonkblog, Klein and his staff break down complicated policy ideas in a digestible, straightforward way -- and often with charts. The blog has grown to become its own newsroom fiefdom, with spin-offs like The Switch and Know More." [Huffpost]
BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR - Here is a husky pup learning how to howl.
REPUBLICANS REALLY DREAMING OF A WHITE CHRISTMAS - We give it a year until Glenn Beck traces the Easter Bunny's ancestry back to the Scottish Highlands on his blackboard. Emily Swanson: "Most Americans don't care about Santa's race, according to a new HuffPost/YouGov poll, but nearly half of the Republicans surveyed think Santa should be portrayed as white. Fox News host Megyn Kelly set off the debate last week, responding to an article in Slate by reassuring viewers that "Santa just is white." But according to the new poll, 60 percent of Americans don't think it matters how Santa's race is portrayed, while 31 percent think that Santa should be white. Another 4 percent said they would prefer that Santa be some other race. Although Democrats (by a 68 percent to 20 percent margin) and independents (by a 61 percent to 31 percent margin) said that they don't think it matters what race Santa is, Republicans were slightly more likely to say that Santa should be portrayed as white than that it doesn't matter. Forty-nine percent said they think Santa should be white, while 45 percent said it doesn't matter." [HuffPost]
- HuffPost Comedy looks back at the funniest things of 2013. counts down the [http://huff.to/1hrFWOO]
- What the New Yorker would look like if it were published in Paris as "The Parisianer" [http://nyr.kr/JIzwz4]
- Behold the world's biggest camera. [http://bit.ly/1hrz3wX]
- A man proposed to his girlfriend via the mobile game Dots, which HuffPost Hill loves so much it wants to use Dots to ask Dots if it will marry him. [http://bit.ly/1cWNOqG]
- The latest in cube technology: this one can run, walk and jump. [http://bit.ly/1bWjWWO]
- A behind-the-scenes look at that most serious of cinematic ventures, pre-recorded yule logs. [http://huff.to/1chWVDI]
@pourmecoffee: Obama announcing he will open the Strategic Outrage Reserve to help with the new culture wars.
@EvanMcSan: would you rather make a reality show about 100 dynasty-sized ducks or one duck-sized dynasty?
@indecision: At least this Duck Dynasty controversy has given us all an opportunity to misunderstand how the First Amendment works.
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