Today's Headlines and Commentary

Today’s Headlines and Commentary

By Jane Chong
Monday, January 6, 2014, 8:53 AM
Three days of peace talks with Israeli and Palestinian leaders have not yielded any breakthroughs, but Secretary of State John Kerry says that he is "comfortable that the major choices are on the table," reports the LA Times.
Kerry suggested at a news conference in Jerusalem that Iran could play a role as an informal participant in Syria peace talks in Switzerland later this month. The New York Times has the story. Also in his Sunday remarks, Kerry said that the U.S. won't be sending American troops into Iraq but will support Iraq's fight against al-Qaeda-linked militants by other means. Here is the Associated Presshere is the Washington Post.
On Sunday the Iraqi military launched airstrikes on Ramadi in an effort to dislodge al-Qaeda militants from the city, killing at least 34 people in the process, reports the Guardian. And at least 19 people have been killed by car and roadside bombs that exploded in areas of Baghdad on Sunday, says Reuters.
Majid al-Majid, al-Qaeda's commander in Lebanon, died in a military hospital in Beirut on Saturday where he was receiving treatment for kidney failure. The BBC reports.
Ya Libnan is reporting that a suspected member of an al-Qaeda affiliate, Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), has been arrested at an airport in southern Spain.
Afghanistan is set to release 88 prisoners over U.S. objections, further straining relations already troubled by President Hamid Karzai's refusal to sign a bilateral security deal on U.S. presence in the country after 2014. Reuters has details.
Over at Foreign Policy, John Hudson notes that the FBI's "creeping advance into the world of counterterrorism" has taken an official turn, as reflected in the agency's decision to change its primary function from"law enforcement" to "national security" on one of its fact sheets.
Carol Rosenberg reported on Saturday for the Miami Herald that the military is systematically reducing public access to information that was once routinely released. The daily tally of currently hunger-striking detainees, for example, stopped in December.
Expect no end to the voices weighing in on whether Edward Snowden should receive leniency in the form of clemency or a plea deal. The Guardian writes that on Sunday former Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano has joined the opposition; meanwhile Republican Rand Paul took to the waves to state that Snowden "probably would come home for a few years in prison, which would be not unlike what James Clapper should get for lying to Congress.” For a little comic relief, here is NY Times comic strip artist Brian McFadden's take on the unlikeliness of a Clapper-indictment/Snowden-pardon.
Robert Samuelson has an op-ed in the Washington Post decrying the hypocrisy of NSA naysayers. He writes:
Vilifying the NSA — letting Snowden dictate the terms of debate — promotes bad history and bad policy. It’s bad history, because the most powerful assaults on privacy have originated in markets. It’s bad policy, because weakening the NSA leaves the United States more exposed to cyberattacks.
 Are tech companies systematically ignoring security warnings? Last month's massive Snapchat hack is the latest example of an industry problem, suggests Gerry Smith of the Huffington Post.
Which countries experienced the greatest increase in material conflict from 2012 to 2013, as measured by news coverage? Check out the Global Database of Events, Language, and Tone (GDELT) project, the largest event database in the world, with daily updates of 100,000 events a day. Here is the FP story on the free database; here is the full 172-page GDELT report.
Dennis "that’s not my problem . . . I'm not an ambassador" Rodman is taking a team of former NBA players to Pyongyang for a little "basketball diplomacy," notes the BBC.

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