The White House is considering Israel's request to release Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard to salvage the latest round of peace talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority. Israel — and especially Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — has been increasingly pushing for Pollard's release since the mid-1990s.
Successive administrations since Pollard's 1985 conviction have refused entreaties to release the former Navy intelligence officer who passed on huge amounts of classified documents to a foreign government, even an ally like Israel. The intelligence community has vehemently fought clemency for Pollard. At The Washington Post, Adam Taylor has a helpful synopsis of the Pollard case, what each side wants, and why.
But what would the U.S. get for releasing Pollard to Israel now? It appears, nothing more than a probable extension of peace talks after the April 29 end point. Specifically, it would encourage Netanyahu to release a fourth and final round of Palestinian prisoners from a group he agreed to release last summer. That seems like a poor trade-off.
"Some analysts questioned the wisdom of giving up one of the few leverage points the United States has when it is not clear it would gain more than an extension in the talks, much less a full-blown agreement," note Mark Landler and Michael R. Gordon in The New York Times. Former Mideast peace negotiator Aaron David Miller is blunter still. "If you can't get the deal without releasing Pollard, that's truly a catastrophe," he says.
Pollard is reportedly ill, and he is up for possible parole next year, putting a potential statute of limitations on his utility as a bargaining chip. But while a lasting Mideast peace agreement is an eminently worthy goal, it's also one that primarily helps Israel and the Palestinians; if they don't have enough urgency to continue talks without U.S. sweeteners, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry should probably move on to a more promising enterprise. Obama wouldn't be the first president to try and fail to broker peace in the long-festering conflict. --Peter Weber
President Trump took to Twitter Saturday morning to reiterate his disdain for the media and suggest a gathering of his own supporters would be the "biggest [rally] of them all," after which he turned to economic matters.
The media has not reported that the National Debt in my first month went down by $12 billion vs a $200 billion increase in Obama first mo.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 25, 2017
Great optimism for future of U.S. business, AND JOBS, with the DOW having an 11th straight record close. Big tax & regulation cuts coming!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 25, 2017
Trump's tweet about the debt appears to reference the U.S. Treasury's daily history of the national debt. The debt presently sits at nearly $20 trillion, of which the $12 billion for which Trump takes credit is 0.06 percent.
As The Hill notes, the national debt spiked in February of 2009 mostly because the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, also known as the stimulus bill, which cost $831 billion and remains controversial eight years later. Both President George W. Bush and President Obama doubled the national debt during their time in office, from about $5.6 to $9.9 trillion and $9.9 to $19.9 trillion, respectively.
Scheduled back-channel conversations between representatives of the United States and North Korea have been canceled, The Wall Street Journal reported Saturday, as the State Department retracted visa approval for the ranking foreign ministry envoy from Pyongyang, Choe Son Hui.
The reason for the visa withdrawal is unknown, though it may be tied to North Korea's ballistic missile test earlier this month. "The U.S government had no plans to engage in track 2 talks in New York," said a State Department representative who would not comment on the specifics of the visa revocation.
The talks were due to take place March 1 and 2 in New York City and were reportedly arranged at North Korea's instigation after President Trump's election. This would have been the first meeting between the two nations on U.S. soil in about six years. Bonnie Kristian
A security breech dubbed "CloudBleed" because of its link to cybersecurity company Cloudflare compromised some 3,400 websites, including popular services like Uber, FitBit, and OKCupid. News of the bug broke Thursday and Friday after it was discovered by a Google researcher named Tavis Ormandy, and users are encouraged to change their passwords on affected sites even though the problem has now been fixed.
Ormandy's report indicated he was able to find "private messages from major dating sites, full messages from a well-known chat service, online password manager data, frames from adult video sites, hotel bookings," though Cloudflare says it has "not discovered any evidence of malicious exploits of the bug or other reports of its existence."
For now, most potentially affected "users are probably fine," explained Adam Clark Estes at Gizmodo Saturday. "Then again," he adds, "Cloudbleed illustrates a larger problem with internet security. If one major player gets pwned, the consequences can be catastrophic." Bonnie Kristian
Muhammad Ali Jr., the son of legendary boxing champion Muhammad Ali, was detained by immigration agents on Feb. 7 at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport in Florida, his family reported Friday. Ali Jr. was traveling with his mother, Khalilah Camacho-Ali, on his way home from speaking at a Black History Month event in Jamaica.
The family's lawyer, Chris Mancini, said both were pulled aside by immigration officials asking questions like, "Where did you get your name from?" and "Are you Muslim?" Ali Jr. was held and questioned for two hours.
The 447 members of the Democratic National Committee will meet in Atlanta on Saturday to choose a new DNC chair, an important step of self-definition for a party seeking new direction after its unexpected loss of the White House in November. "This is going to end up being unity weekend in the city of Atlanta and unity weekend in the state of Georgia and unity weekend in the Democratic Party," said Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, a Democrat. "It's going to be the end of that presidency of Donald Trump."
Seven candidates are in contention for the position, but the two favorites are Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), who is backed by progressives like Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and former Labor Secretary Tom Perez, who has the support of Former Vice President Joe Biden as well as other high-ranking officials from the erstwhile Obama administration and Hillary Clinton campaign.
The previous DNC chair, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, resigned in 2016 after leaked emails suggested she inappropriately favored Clinton over Sanders in the Democratic primaries. Donna Brazile stepped in as an interim chair in July. Bonnie Kristian
A fake-news site is giving progressives a chance to visit an alternative reality in which Hillary Clinton won the election. HillaryBeatTrump.org features headlines such as "Confused by fake news, Redditers think Trump is President" and "Approval ratings for President Clinton hit 89%." The site promises to deliver "news from real America," where the "majority rules."
The Department of Homeland Security was apparently unable to find sufficient evidence to back President Trump's claim that his immigration executive order banning people from certain countries from entering the U.S. could protect the nation from terrorist threats, The Associated Press reported Friday, citing a draft document prepared by DHS analysts.
The report suggests that assessments of the seven predominantly Muslim countries included in Trump's travel ban found that "few people" from those countries "have carried out attacks or been involved in terrorism-related activities in the U.S. since Syria's civil war started in 2011," The Associated Press reported. Moreover, the draft document concluded, "country of citizenship is unlikely to be a reliable indicator of potential terrorist activity."
The Associated Press noted Homeland Security spokeswoman Gillian Christensen did not "dispute the report's authenticity," but said it "was not a final comprehensive review of the government's intelligence."
Trump's ban is presently blocked by the courts, but he has vowed to introduce a second executive order on the issue. Becca Stanek