In a chilling New York Times article, James B. Comey, director of the FBI, is quoted saying the threat of terrorism is worse than he imagined before assuming his current position:
By Mr. Comey's own account, he also brought to the job a belief, based on news media reports, that the threat from Al Qaeda was diminished. But nine months into his tenure as director, Mr. Comey acknowledges that he underestimated the threat the United States still faces from terrorism.
"I didn't have anywhere near the appreciation I got after I came into this job just how virulent those affiliates had become," Mr. Comey said, referring to offshoots of Al Qaeda in Africa and in the Middle East during an interview in his sprawling office on the seventh floor of the J. Edgar Hoover Building. "There are both many more than I appreciated, and they are stronger than I appreciated." [The New York Times]
One might interpret this information differently, based on preconceived notions.
Neocons, for example, might see this as further evidence that skepticism of the surveillance state is rooted in nothing but ignorance and naiveté. Meanwhile, folks on the other side of the debate might view this as yet another example of someone being co-opted once they gain a position of authority.
But Comey's credibility on this issue is hard to impugn. As the No. 2 in the Bush Justice Department, he famously refused to approve reauthorization of the N.S.A.'s domestic eavesdropping program.
I don't know about you, but I'd be more comfortable if his credibility on this issue weren't quite so solid. Matt K. Lewis
President Trump promised the father of an army corporal slain in Afghanistan a $25,000 check and a fundraiser to support his family, but failed to deliver on either account, The Washington Post reports. Chris Baldridge said he spoke to Trump on the phone after his son, Army Cpl. Dillon Baldridge, 22, was killed in June. When Baldridge explained to Trump that he would see none of his son's $100,000 death gratuity, which was designated to go to his ex-wife, "[Trump] said, 'I'm going to write you a check out of my personal account for $25,000,' and I was just floored," Baldridge recalled.
Later, when Baldridge received a letter from the White House, he realized Trump hadn't followed through on the promise: "I opened it up and read it, and I was hoping to see a check in there, to be honest," he said. "I know it was kind of far-fetched thinking. But I was like, 'Damn, no check.' Just a letter saying 'I'm sorry.'"
Other Gold Star families contacted by the Post described mixed interactions with Trump. Euvince Brooks, whose son, Sgt. Roshain E. Brooks, 30, was killed in Iraq, said he was upset when he saw Trump claim that he had called all families of slain troops since taking office. "I said to my daughter, 'Can you teach me to tweet, so I can tweet at the president and tell him he's a liar?'" Brooks said. His family has not heard from the White House at all.
The White House declined to comment to the Post for the story, but later issued a statement about Baldridge: "It is disgusting that the media is taking something that should be recognized as a generous and sincere gesture, made privately by the president, and using it to advance the media's biased agenda," a spokesperson said. The White House confirmed Baldridge's check is now in the mail. Read the full report at The Washington Post. Jeva Lange
On Wednesday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters asking about the state of the North American Free Trade Agreement that it is "not yet" dead.
Trump's final decision on NAFTA has been widely anticipated. Last week, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau met with Trump at the White House and called for maintaining a "fairer" agreement that would "produce better outcomes" for the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. Canada's foreign minister, Chrystia Freeland, characterized the Trump administration's proposals as "turn[ing] back the clock on 23 years of predictability, openness, and collaboration under NAFTA."
Trump has remained less than forthcoming about his intentions. "We'll see what happens," Trump said in the Oval Office when asked if NAFTA was dead. "We have a tough negotiation, and it's something you will know in the not too distant future." Jeva Lange
Drones may soon be responsible for some of the news coverage you watch on TV.
CNN worked with Vantage Robotics for over two years to create its drone, researching and testing various devices. The network's final model, called a Snap, can fly up to 150 feet, weighs only 1.37 pounds, and contains enclosed rotors for maximum security while flying over people. Previous exemptions have limited drone usage to tethered filming up to only 21 feet in the air.
CNN has been leading the pack in developing drones for news coverage. Earlier this year, the FAA approved CNN's use of a drone for filming on a closed set motion picture. The waiver is a major step forward for news organizations looking to use the devices to safely capture footage of protests or dangerous areas. Elianna Spitzer
King Salman of Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam, announced Wednesday the formation of a religious authority of Islamic scholars from around the world that would vet the use of "hadiths" — the accounts of the life, doings, and sayings of the Prophet Muhammad.
Hadiths are used by preachers, scholars, and Islamic jurists to teach different interpretations of Islam. Terrorist groups like the Islamic State, al Qaeda, and the Taliban have all used different hadiths to justify their own ideologies and actions, as there are thousands of version. Saudi Arabia's Culture and Information Ministry said Wednesday that the establishment of this religious authority would "eliminate fake and extremist texts and any texts that contradict the teachings of Islam and justify the committing of crimes, murders, and terrorist acts."
Saudi Arabia has long subsidized the international exportation of madrassas, or Islamic religious schools, that teach Wahhabism, a rigid and puritanical Sunni interpretation of Islam. In a leaked email from 2009, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton referred to Saudi donors as "the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide." In September, Saudi authorities arrested more than 20 clerics and intellectuals for their connections to "external entities, including the Muslim Brotherhood."
It is estimated that approximately 10 to 15 percent of Saudi Arabia's population practices Shia Islam, a branch of the religion that expressly contradicts many of the beliefs of Sunni Islam. Shiites in Saudi Arabia have long been targets of harassment and discrimination; in August, Saudi Arabia drew fierce criticism from the U.S. and Europe when it executed 14 Shiites who had been arrested for demonstrating in 2011 and 2012. Kelly O'Meara Morales
Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Al Franken tussle over Sessions' shifting about his meetings with Russian agents
Attorney General Jeff Sessions refused to discuss his conversations with President Trump at his Senate Judiciary Committee oversight hearing Wednesday, citing executive privilege and frustrating Democrats. "I can neither assert executive privilege nor can I disclose today the content of my confidential conversations with the president," Sessions said. Democrats have maintained that because Trump did not invoke the privilege himself, the attorney general is not required to adhere to it, The New York Times reports.
Sessions faced intense pressure from senators including Vermont's Patrick Leahy (D), who forced him to admit he has not yet been interviewed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller in the Russia investigation, and Minnesota's Al Franken (D), who challenged Sessions for "moving the goal posts" regarding his conversations with Russian agents during the presidential campaign.
"Not being able to recall what you discussed with him is very different than saying, 'I have not had communications with the Russians,'" Franken challenged Sessions over the attorney general's inconsistent answers on what exactly happened. "The ambassador from Russia is Russian." Jeva Lange
Even the least cuddly of cats at this Philadelphia shelter can find a home.
While they won't become a little kid's birthday present, unadoptable felines at Philadelphia's Animal Care and Control Team get a job chasing mice at a barn or even a brewery through the shelter's "Working Cats" program, The Associated Press reported.
ACCT started the program four years ago, and it's been a win-win ever since: Not-so-friendly cats get a home, and local businesses get rid of mice. The Working Cats program realizes that not all cats make perfect pets, and cats who'd rather scratch than snuggle get to use their natural hunting abilities to help humans.
As a bonus, when given an outlet for their energy, some of these cats have grown to love people and did become cuddly mascots at their new homes.
In March, City of Miami Police Lt. Javier Ortiz was stripped of his gun, temporarily suspended, and forced to do desk work after a county judge granted a restraining order against him by a woman he'd harassed on Facebook. Over the last few years, Ortiz had also posted racially inflammatory content on social media, allegedly written improper police reports, and received several use-of-force lawsuits.
Although Ortiz is the head of Miami's police union, he has been accused of racism by the the city's oldest black police organization, the Miami Community Police Benevolent Association, and he is deeply unpopular even within the union he helms. A quick Google search on "Javier Ortiz Miami" yields almost exclusively bad press, which is a point of contention for officers who have anonymously complained to local media about the reputation Ortiz creates for the Miami Police Department.
Miami police chief Rodolfo Llanes, who technically retired in 2016 but still collects both a salary and pension, did not respond to a message from the Miami New Times asking about Ortiz's promotion. Kelly O'Meara Morales