December 30th, 2009
01:15 PM ET

DeMint defends blocking appointment of TSA chief

Evan Glass
CNN Congressional Producer

Elected officials on Capitol Hill are planning to hold hearings in January to investigate the safety gaps in airline security, made more pronounced since the attempted bombing over Detroit on Christmas Day.

But one important officeholder, the administrator of the Transportation Security Administration, likely won't be present at any of the hearings – simply because his nomination is being blocked in the Senate.

Sen. Jim DeMint, R-South Carolina, has been holding up the confirmation of Erroll Southers to be TSA chief, in an effort to prevent TSA employees from joining a labor union. Southers is a former FBI special agent and counterterrorism expert.

"The attempted terror attack in Detroit is a perfect example of why the Obama Administration should not unionize the TSA and allow our airline security decisions to be dictated by union bosses," DeMint said in a statement. "I hope this incident will lead the President to re-think this policy and put the interests of American travelers ahead of organized labor."


Filed under: 360° Radar • Airline Safety • Raw Politics
December 30th, 2009
12:46 PM ET
December 30th, 2009
12:21 PM ET

Iran's online protest faces more savvy regime

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Doug Gross

It was called the "Twitter Revolution" - the mass street protests following Iran's questionable June elections that were beamed to the world via social media and other online tools despite the government's media blackout.

This week, a loose, multi-national network of protesters, bloggers, Web developers and everyday Internet users has ramped up again in the wake of renewed anti-government street demonstrations that turned deadly Sunday on Ashura, a Shiite Muslim holy day commemorating the death of 7th Century cleric Imam Hussein.

This time, Internet analysists and online activists involved in the movement have told CNN that a government initially caught flat-footed at how easily information flowed out of the country was ready to fight back.

"It's clear the government has been definitely restricting the Internet in a much more controlled way," said Cyrus Farivar, an Iranian-American freelance journalist who writes about technology issues. "They're definitely paying attention and, at the very least, trying to intimidate people."

And retaliation has been brutal - both for those taking to the streets and those spreading the word online.

One of the most compelling videos to emerge from the recent unrest showed what the people who posted it said was an Iranian government vehicle plowing into a crowd of protesters, apparently running over and, they say, killing a woman.

Keep reading...

Filed under: Iran • Technology • Twitter
December 30th, 2009
12:09 PM ET

Yemen's problems will not stay in Yemen

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/OPINION/12/30/boucek.yemen.terror.threat/t1larg.yemen.demo.afpgi.jpg caption="Yemenis demonstrate against a government raid that killed suspected al Qaeda members in Yemen's Shabwa province."]

Editor's note: Christopher Boucek is an associate in the Middle East Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Christopher Boucek
Special to CNN

In recent days, international attention has refocused on the rapidly deteriorating security situation in Yemen. The claim of responsibility for the attack on Northwest flight 253 on December 25 by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has underscored the fact that Yemen's problems will not stay in Yemen.

In the absence of immediate and sustained attention by the international community, Yemen may be overwhelmed by a unique convergence of crises. While some observers feared this would come in several years, it is increasingly apparent that failure may come sooner than previously expected.

Yemen has frequently been described as a failing state - and with good reason. Civil war, terrorism, a deepening secessionist movement and economic and demographic trends threaten to overpower the Yemeni government, provide a breeding ground for terrorists and destabilize the region. Yemen has often teetered on the brink of collapse, but it has never faced so many interconnected challenges at one time.

At the heart of the country's problems is a looming economic crisis. Oil is the source of nearly 80 percent of government revenue, and it is quickly running out. There are few viable options for a sustainable post-oil economy, and Yemen is already the poorest country in the Arab world with an unemployment rate conservatively estimated at 35 percent.

Keep reading...

Filed under: al Qaeda • Terrorism
December 30th, 2009
11:58 AM ET

Hard Questions, All-Too-Easy Answers

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Bill Burck and Dana Perino
National Review

Janet Napolitano, President Obama’s secretary of homeland security, has been rightly criticized for her declaration that “the system worked” in the thwarted plot to bring down Northwest Airlines Flight 253. Secretary Napolitano and the Obama administration quickly pulled up stakes on that position in the face of ridicule from all corners. Less noticed is the administration’s continuing insistence that another system will work to protect the country from future attacks. This time they have put their unquestioned faith, and our security, in the hands of our civilian law-enforcement institutions and the federal courts.

The Justice Department announced charges against Umar Farouk Abdul Mutallab in a press release with characteristic matter-of-factness, including the standard reminder that “criminal complaints contain mere allegations and a defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty.” Press releases serve many purposes, not least of which is to inform the public that a dangerous person has been apprehended. Charging Mutallab with a crime is no cause for relief, however. Instead, the decision renews concern about how seriously the administration is taking the threat posed by al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations, and whether we are slipping back into the pre-9/11 mindset of treating terrorism as principally a law-enforcement problem. Whatever legitimate role our civilian authorities may have in eventually bringing Mutallab to justice for attempting to blow up the airplane, experience and common sense tell us they are a poor means of addressing the more immediate problem — acquiring intelligence to stop the next attack before it happens.

Keep reading...

Filed under: President Barack Obama • Terrorism
December 30th, 2009
11:37 AM ET

Obama and Our Post-Modern Race Problem

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Shelby Steele
Wall Street Journal

America still has a race problem, though not the one that conventional wisdom would suggest: the racism of whites toward blacks. Old fashioned white racism has lost its legitimacy in the world and become an almost universal disgrace.

The essence of our new "post-modern" race problem can be seen in the parable of the emperor's new clothes. The emperor was told by his swindling tailors that people who could not see his new clothes were stupid and incompetent. So when his new clothes arrived and he could not see them, he put them on anyway so that no one would think him stupid and incompetent. And when he appeared before his people in these new clothes, they too—not wanting to appear stupid and incompetent—exclaimed the beauty of his wardrobe. It was finally a mere child who said, "The emperor has no clothes."

The lie of seeing clothes where there were none amounted to a sophistication—joining oneself to an obvious falsehood in order to achieve social acceptance. In such a sophistication there is an unspoken agreement not to see what one clearly sees—in this case the emperor's flagrant nakedness.

America's primary race problem today is our new "sophistication" around racial matters. Political correctness is a compendium of sophistications in which we join ourselves to obvious falsehoods ("diversity") and refuse to see obvious realities (the irrelevance of diversity to minority development). I would argue further that Barack Obama's election to the presidency of the United States was essentially an American sophistication, a national exercise in seeing what was not there and a refusal to see what was there—all to escape the stigma not of stupidity but of racism.

Keep reading...

December 30th, 2009
10:35 AM ET

Say goodbye to the Uh-Ohs. Long live the Tens.

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David Gewirtz | BIO
AC360° Contributor
Editor-in-Chief, ZATZ Publishing

So this is it. The end of the first decade of the new millenium - which isn't really new anymore, is it? What do we even call this last decade? We called the 80s the 80s, and the 90s the 90s. But is this the 0s? The 00s? Given what the last ten years have been like, what with the economy, terrorist attacks, and the mortgage crisis, I tend to think of the last ten years as the Uh-Ohs.

We're done. Ten years have gone by since we all worried about Y2K and we're still not driving flying cars.

What has ten years of tech bought us? Are there colonies on the moon? Can we "beam" from New York to San Francisco in seconds? Have we cured cancer?

Nope. Instead we got Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

Seriously, that's what we got out of ten years. We've learned we can be inane 140 characters at a time. Special.

Craigslist and Google have teamed up to kill newspapers. Bloggers are bashing magazines. And e-books are causing print publishers to both lose revenue and hair.

So, yeah, we got the iPhone. We've learned that Apple can be petty, capricious, and completely non-responsive in all new ways. Yay?


Filed under: David Gewirtz • Internet • Technology
December 30th, 2009
09:50 AM ET

College friend: What happened to the AbdulMutallab I knew?

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Nic Robertson
Senior International Correspondent

Qasim Rafiq had trouble reconciling the shocking news surrounding Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab with the college friend he knew: a pious and genuine person who was the president of an organization that condemned terrorist attacks.

AbdulMutallab raised money for charity, he liked soccer, he was social; he was quiet, humble and never came across as dangerous, Rafiq said.

"It's really difficult to see how he could have led a double life at the time, and afterward, it's anyone's guess as to what happened," Rafiq told CNN on Tuesday.

Rafiq does not believe AbdulMutallab became radicalized while at University College London. As a student, the man now accused of trying to blow up a jet was president of the school's Islamic Society from 2006 to 2007 - a society, Rafiq said, that denounced the July 7, 2005, terrorist bombings in London.

If AbdulMutallab had ever shown signs of support for such attacks, he couldn't have become leader of the group, said Rafiq, who was president of the same society from 2005 to 2006. And from what Rafiq could remember, AbdulMutallab opposed fundamentalist Islamic views that encouraged such violence.


Filed under: Nic Robertson • Terrorism
December 30th, 2009
09:31 AM ET

What's your favorite 2009 viral video?

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We're rounding up the most popular, entertaining, and hilarious web videos of 2009, and we want you to weigh in on the list. Write to us in the comments section with links to your favorite videos and we may use your suggestions in the show later this week!

Filed under: 360° Radar • Pop Culture
December 30th, 2009
08:54 AM ET
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