Politics » George Stephanopoulos http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics The latest Politics news and blog posts from ABC News contributors and bloggers including Jake Tapper, George Stephanopoulos and more. Fri, 30 Jan 2015 17:43:45 +0000 en hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.2.1 Sunday on ‘This Week’: Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2015/01/sunday-on-this-week-wisconsin-gov-scott-walker/ http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2015/01/sunday-on-this-week-wisconsin-gov-scott-walker/#comments Fri, 30 Jan 2015 17:40:28 +0000 ABC News http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/?p=898196 ap scott walker kb 150130 16x9 608 Sunday on This Week: Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker

Andy Manis/AP Photo

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker discusses his potential 2016 GOP presidential bid, only on “This Week” Sunday.

And the powerhouse roundtable debates all the week’s politics, with ABC News political analyst Matthew Dowd, ESPN columnist and CNN contributor LZ Granderson, PBS “NewsHour” co-host and managing editor Gwen Ifill, and National Review editor Rich Lowry.

See the whole political picture, Sunday on “This Week.”

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Excerpt: ‘Guantanamo Diary’ by Mohamedou Ould Slahi http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2015/01/excerpt-guantanamo-diary-by-mohamedou-ould-slahi/ http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2015/01/excerpt-guantanamo-diary-by-mohamedou-ould-slahi/#comments Sun, 25 Jan 2015 19:43:03 +0000 ABC News http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/?p=898136 HT guantanamo diary jt 150124 16x9 608 Excerpt: Guantanamo Diary by Mohamedou Ould Slahi

'Guantanamo Diary'

Excerpted from the book GUANTANAMO DIARY by Mohamedou Ould Slahi. Diary and annotated diary copyright © 2015 by Mohamedou Ould Slahi. Introduction and notes copyright © 2015 by Larry Siems. Reprinted with permission of Little, Brown and Company.

Chapter One

Jordan-Afghanistan-GTMO

July 2002- February 2003

The American Team Takes Over…Arrival at Bagram…Bagram to GTMO…GTMO, the New Home…

One Day in Paradise, the Next in Hell

_____________, [redacted] July __, [redacted] 2002, 10 p.m.*

The music was off. The conversations of the guards faded away. The truck emptied. I felt alone in the hearse truck. The waiting didn’t last: I felt the presence of new people, a silent team. I don’t remember a single word during the whole rendition to follow.

A person was undoing the chains on my wrists. He undid the first hand, and another guy grabbed that hand and bent it while a third person was putting on the new, firmer and heavier shackles. Now my hands were shackled in front of me.

Somebody started to rip my clothes with something like a scissors. I was like, What the heck is going on? I started to worry about the trip I neither wanted nor initiated. Somebody else was deciding everything for me; I had all the worries in the world but making a decision. Many thoughts went quickly through my head. The optimistic thoughts suggested, Maybe you’re in the hands of Americans, but don’t worry, they just want to take you home, and to make sure that everything goes in secrecy. The pessimistic ones went, You s****** up! The Americans managed to pin some s*** on you, and they’re taking you to U.S. prisons for the rest of your life.

I was stripped naked. It was humiliating, but the blindfold helped me miss the nasty look of my naked body. During the whole procedure, the only prayer I could remember was the crisis prayer, Ya hayyu! Ya kayyum! and I was mumbling it all the time. Whenever I came to be in a similar situation, I would forget all my prayers except the crisis prayer, which I learned from life of our Prophet, Peace be upon him.

One of the team wrapped a diaper around my private parts. Only then was I dead sure that the plane was heading to the U.S. Now I started to convince myself that “every thing’s gonna be alright.” My only worry was about my family seeing me on TV in such a degrading situation. I was so skinny. I’ve been always, but never that skinny: my street clothes had become so loose that I looked like a small cat in a big bag.

When the U.S. team finished putting me in the clothes they tailored for me, a guy removed my blindfold for a moment. I couldn’t see much because he directed the flashlight into my eyes. He was wrapped from hair to toe in a black uniform. He opened his mouth and stuck his tongue out, gesturing for me to do the same, a kind of AHH test which I took without resistance. I saw part of his very pale, blond-haired arm, which cemented my theory of being in Uncle Sam’s hands.

The blindfold was pushed down. The whole time I was listening to loud plane engines; I very much believe that some planes were landing and others taking off. I felt my “special” plane approaching, or the truck approaching the plane, I don’t recall anymore. But I do recall that when the escort grabbed me from the truck, there was no space between the truck and the airplane stairs. I was so exhausted, sick, and tired that I couldn’t walk, which compelled the escort to pull me up the steps like a dead body.

Inside the plane it was very cold. I was laid on a sofa and the guards shackled me, mostly likely to the floor. I felt a blanket put over me; though very thin, it comforted me.

I relaxed and gave myself to my dreams. I was thinking about different members of my family I would never see again. How sad would they be! I was crying silently and without tears; for some reason, I gave all my tears at the beginning of the expedition, which was like the boundary between death and life. I wished I were better to people. I wished I were better to my family. I regretted every mistake I made in my life, toward God, toward my family, toward anybody!

I was thinking about life in an American prison. I was thinking about documentaries I had seen about their prisons, and the harshness with which they treat their prisoners. I wished I were blind or had some kind of handicap, so they would put me in isolation and give me some kind of humane treatment and protection. I was thinking, What will the first hearing with the judge be like? Do I have a chance to get due process in a country so full of hatred against Muslims? Am I really already convicted, even before I get the chance to defend myself ?

I drowned in these painful dreams in the warmth of the blanket. Every once in a while the pain of the urine urge pinched me. The diaper didn’t work with me: I could not convince my brain to give the signal to my bladder. The harder I tried, the firmer my brain became. The guard beside me kept pouring water bottle caps in my mouth, which worsened my situation. There was no refusing it, either you swallow or you choke. Lying on one side was killing me beyond belief, but every attempt to change my position ended in failure, for a strong hand pushed me back to the same position.

I could tell that the plane was a big jet, which led me to believe that flight was direct to the U.S. But after about five hours, the plane started to lose altitude and smoothly hit the runway. I realized the U.S. is a little bit farther than that. Where are we? In Ramstein, Germany? Yes! Ramstein it is: in Ramstein there’s a U.S. military airport for transiting planes from the middle east; we’re going to stop here for fuel. But as soon as the plane landed, the guards started to change my metal chains for plastic ones that cut my ankles painfully on the short walk to a helicopter. One of the guards, while pulling me out of the plane, tapped me on the shoulder as if to say, “you’re gonna be alright.” As in agony as I was, that gesture gave me hope that there were still some human beings among the people who were dealing with me.

When the sun hit me, the question popped up again: Where am I? Yes, Germany it is: it was July and the sun rises early. But why Germany? I had done no crimes in Germany! What s*** did they pull on me? And yet the German legal system was by far a better choice for me; I know the procedures and speak the language. Moreover, the German system is somewhat transparent, and there are no two and three hundred years sentences. I had little to worry about: a German judge will face me and show me whatever the government has brought against me, and then I’m going to be sent to a temporary jail until my case is decided. I won’t be subject to torture, and I won’t have to see the evil faces of interrogators.

After about ten minutes the helicopter landed and I was taken into a truck, with a guard on either side. The chauffeur and his neighbor were talking in a language I had never heard before. I thought, What the heck are they speaking, maybe Filipino? I thought of the Philippines because I’m aware of the huge U.S. Military presence there. Oh, yes, Philippines it is: they conspired with the U.S. and pulled some s*** on me. What would the questions of their judge be? By now, though, I just wanted to arrive and take a pee, and after that they can do whatever they please. Please let me arrive! I thought; After that you may kill me!

The guards pulled me out of the truck after a five-minute drive, and it felt as if they put me in a hall. They forced me to kneel and bend my head down: I should remain in that position until they grabbed me. They yelled, “Do not move.” Before worrying about anything else, I took my most remarkable urine since I was born. It was such a relief; I felt I was released and sent back home. All of a sudden my worries faded away, and I smiled inside. Nobody noticed what I did.

About a quarter of an hour later, some guards pulled me and towed me to a room where they obviously had “processed” many detainees. Once I entered the room, the guards took the gear off my head. Oh, my ears ached so badly, and so did my head; actually my whole body was conspiring against me. I could barely stand. The guards started to deprive me of my clothes, and soon I stood there as naked as my mother bore me. I stood there for the first time in front of U.S. soldiers, not on TV, this was for real. I had the most common reaction, covering my private parts with my hands. I also quietly started to recite the crisis prayer, Ya hayyu! Ya kayyum! Nobody stopped me from praying; however, one of the MPs was staring at me with his eyes full of hatred. Later on he would order me to stop looking around in the room.

A __________________________[redacted] medic gave me a quick medical check, after which I was wrapped in Afghani cloths. Yes, Afghani clothes in the Philippines! Of course I was chained, hands and feet tied to my waist. My hands, moreover, were put in mittens. Now I’m ready for action! What action? No clue! The escort team pulled me blindfolded to a neighboring interrogation room. As soon as I entered the room, several people started to shout and throw heavy things against the wall. In the melee, I could distinguish the following questions:

“Where is Mullah Omar?”

“Where is Usama Bin Laden?”

“Where is Jalaluddin Haqqani?”

A very quick analysis went through my brain: the individuals in those questions were leading a country, and now they’re a bunch of fugitives! The interrogators missed a couple of things. First, they had just briefed me about the latest news: Afghanistan is taken over, but the high level people have not been captured. Second, I turned myself in about the time when the war against terrorism started, and since then I have been in a Jordanian prison, literally cut off from the rest of the world. So how am I supposed to know about the U.S. taking over Afghanistan, let alone about its leaders having fled? Not to mention where they are now.

I humbly replied, “I don’t know!”

“You’re a liar!” shouted one of them in broken Arabic.

“No, I’m not lying, I was captured so and so, and I only know Abu Hafs . . .” I said, in a quick summary of my whole story.**

“We should interrogate these m***********s like the Israelis do.”

“What do they do?” asked another.

“They strip them naked and interrogate them!”

“Maybe we should!” suggested another. Chairs were still flying around and hitting the walls and the floor. I knew it was only a show of force, and the establishment of fear and anxiety. I went with the flow and even shook myself more than necessary. I didn’t believe that Americans torture, even though I had always considered it a remote possibility.

“I am gonna interrogate you later on,” said one, and the U.S. interpreter repeated the same in Arabic.

“Take him to the Hotel,” suggested the interrogator. This time the interpreter didn’t translate. And so was the first interrogation done.

FOOTNOTES:

* It becomes clear, from an unredacted date a few pages into the manuscript, that the action begins late in the evening on July 19, 2002. MOS manuscript, 10. A Council of Europe investigation has confirmed that a CIA-leased Gulfstream jet with the tail number N379P departed Amman, Jordan, at 11:15 p.m. that night for Kabul, Afghanistan. An addendum to that 2006 report listing the flight records is available at http://assembly.coe.int/CommitteeDocs/2006/20060614_Ejdoc162006PartII-Appendix.pdf.
EDITOR’S NOTE ON THE FOOTNOTES: None of Mohamedou Ould Slahi’s attorneys holding security clearances has reviewed the footnotes in this book, contributed to them in any way, or confirmed or denied my speculations contained in them. Nor has anyone else with access to the unredacted manuscript reviewed the footnotes, contributed to them in any way, or confirmed or denied my speculations contained in them.

**Abu Hafs, whose name appears here and elsewhere in the manuscript unredacted, is MOS’s cousin and former brother‑in‑law. His full name is Mahfouz Ould al‑Walid, and he is also known as Abu Hafs al‑Mauritani. Abu Hafs married the sister of MOS’s former wife. He was a prominent member of al‑Qaeda’s Shura Council, the group’s main advisory body, in the 1990s and up until the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States. It has been widely reported that Abu Hafs opposed those attacks; the 9/11 Commission recorded that “Abu Hafs the Mauritanian reportedly even wrote Bin Ladin a message basing opposition to the attacks on the Qur’an.” Abu Hafs left Afghanistan after the 9/11 attacks and spent the next decade under house arrest in Iran. In April 2012 he was extradited to Mauritania, where he was held briefly and then released. He is now a free man. The relevant section of the 9/11 Commission report is available at http://govinfo.library.unt.edu/911/report/911Report_Ch7.pdf.

***

In response to ‘Guantanamo Diary,’ Lt Col Myles Caggins, Defense Department spokesman for detainee policy, had the following statement:

“The Special Interrogation Plan (“SIP”) was designed specifically for Slahi and approved by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld on August 13, 2003. The SIP authorized interrogation techniques that were outside of U.S. military interrogation standard operating procedures in place at that time The SIP was ended on September 8, 2003.”

“Slahi’s allegations of abuse, as well as other detainees allegations, have already been subject to several comprehensive investigations.”

“These investigations analyzed thousands of documents, medical records, hundreds of interviews of Guantanamo personnel, and statements relevant to any allegations of abuse occurring at Guantanamo. Slahi’s abuse allegations-based on the date and time references he wrote in his manuscript-appear to fall within the time period of these investigations.”

“We continue to detain Mohamedou Slahi under the Authorization for the Use of Military Force of 2001 (AUMF) as informed by the laws of war. He has full access to federal court for review of his detention by United States District Court via petition for writ of habeas corpus. Slahi is eligible to appear before a Periodic Review Board to assess whether his continued detention at Guantanamo remains necessary to protect against a continuing significant threat to the security of the United States.”

 

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Sunday on ‘This Week’: White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2015/01/sunday-on-this-week-white-house-chief-of-staff-denis-mcdonough-2/ http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2015/01/sunday-on-this-week-white-house-chief-of-staff-denis-mcdonough-2/#comments Fri, 23 Jan 2015 21:22:11 +0000 ABC News http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/?p=898128 gty denis mcdonough js 150123 16x9 608 Sunday on This Week: White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough

Alex Wong/Getty Images

This Sunday, George Stephanopoulos goes one-on-one with White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough.

Plus, as the 2016 GOP field begins to take shape, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal comes to “This Week” Sunday.

And the powerhouse roundtable debates all the week’s politics, with ABC News contributor and Democratic strategist Donna Brazile, Republican strategist Sara Fagen, ABC News contributor and Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol, and ABC News’ Cokie Roberts.

See the whole political picture, Sunday on “This Week.”

Like “This Week” on Facebook here. You can also follow the show on Twitter here.

Go here to find out when “This Week” is on in your area.

 

 

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Sunday on ‘This Week’: Terror Flashpoint http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2015/01/sunday-on-this-week-terror-flashpoint/ http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2015/01/sunday-on-this-week-terror-flashpoint/#comments Fri, 16 Jan 2015 21:11:08 +0000 ABC News http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/?p=898065
RT france hostage4 ml 150109 16x9 608 Sunday on This Week: Terror Flashpoint

Gonzalo Fuentes/Reuters


This Sunday, as anti-terror raids sweep across Europe in the aftermath of the attacks in Paris, we go one-on-one with the director of Europol Rob Wainwright, only on “This Week.”

Plus, as the GOP field for 2016 begins to take shape, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee comes to “This Week” to discuss his new book, “God, Guns, Grits, and Gravy.”

And the powerhouse roundtable debates all the week’s politics, with ABC News political analyst Matthew Dowd, former Gov. Jennifer Granholm, Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., and Fusion’s Alicia Menendez.

See the whole political picture, Sunday on “This Week.”

Like “This Week” on Facebook here. You can also follow the show on Twitter here.

Go here to find out when “This Week” is on in your area.

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Excerpt: ‘God, Guns, Grits and Gravy,’ by Mike Huckabee http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2015/01/excerpt-god-guns-grits-and-gravy-by-mike-huckabee/ http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2015/01/excerpt-god-guns-grits-and-gravy-by-mike-huckabee/#comments Fri, 16 Jan 2015 17:34:02 +0000 ABC News http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/?p=898045
ht huckabee book float lb 150116 16x9 608 Excerpt: God, Guns, Grits and Gravy, by Mike Huckabee

Cover, 'God, Guns, Grits and Gravy' by Mike Huckabee

Excerpted from GOD, GUNS, GRITS AND GRAVY by Mike Huckabee. Copyright © 2015 by the author and reprinted by permission of St. Martin’s Press, LLC.

Introduction :

The three major “nerve centers” of our culture are New York City, Washington,  D.C.,  and Los Angeles. The nation’s finance and fashion center is New York City; D.C.  is the epicenter of American politics and government; and Los Angeles is the nexus for enter- tainment,  whether movies, television, or music. They are the three “bubbles” of influence in our modern culture and they are indeed “bub- bles.” I call these cities “Bubble-ville.” I intentionally live in what I call “Bubba-ville.” It’s where “Bubbas” live, and where a lot of people are called by two names: Mary Elizabeth, Katherine Grace, Jim Bob, and Darryl Wayne.

I travel to New York City every week to host my TV show on the Fox News Channel.  Because the  show originates from there,  most people think that I surely must live there. I’m quick to say, “I don’t live there and won’t unless they will let me duck hunt in Central Park.” I’m quite certain that isn’t going to happen since it’s all but impossible to own a gun in New York City, much less legally use it. Unless you’re a cop or a crook, you probably don’t possess a firearm in New York City. In fact, you’ve probably never seen one in person.

But it’s more than guns. Have you ever tried to order grits in a fancy Manhattan restaurant? Good luck. Not even for breakfast! And you’ll get some real weird looks if you ask for “sawmill gravy” on your pota- toes or biscuits—that is if you can find real biscuits. And I’m sorry, but gravy on a bagel just doesn’t work for me. If I want to chew that hard, I’ll take up chewing tobacco, which I won’t. I’m not even that rural! I can somewhat understand that New York restaurants might not typi- cally have red-eye gravy or chocolate gravy as those might be a bit re- gional, but how can an eating place that fancies itself fancy have the audacity to open its doors and not have biscuits and gravy or grits on the breakfast menu?

And while there are some really wonderful churches in New York City, I get the impression that the total number of the people who faith- fully attend church is a small fraction of the population. It’s not com- pletely Sodom and Gomorrah, but the traffic at 3 a.m. Sunday is more intense than at 11 a.m. That ought to tell you something.

Don’t get me wrong—New York is an exciting city and there’s al- ways a lot going on. It’s full of energy and it has a unique “vibe” all its own. But it’s crowded, loud, hurried, intense, and it just seems like its streets are filthy. Even when the trash gets picked up, you always want to burn your shoes after you’ve walked the New York streets because of all the “stuff ” that is ever present on the sidewalks. I can’t find a Walmart in Manhattan, either, and people stare at my cowboy boots when I’m on the subway. What’s up with that? I prefer boots over Birkenstocks. Does that make me weird?

I feel out of place in Washington,  D.C. as well. I really spend very little time in our nation’s capital and only go there when I have to. It’s a lovely city with all those monuments and stone buildings, but if ego could be turned into electricity, Washington, D.C. would have electric power in unlimited levels and never have a power outage. But for a city where everyone sure is in a hurry and acts busy, nothing productive ever happens there. Some people think that because I’m involved in poli- tics, I surely must live there. I don’t. In fact, there’s only one address in that city that I’d probably want to relocate to. J

And Los Angeles has great weather, but the weather isn’t great enough to make me want to sit in traffic for two hours to go four miles on any given day. And getting grits and gravy there is maybe tougher than in New York. If you want to eat seaweed salad, kale, or granola, you can find lots of varieties. But I thought only North Koreans ate lawn clippings, and no one ever looks you in the eyes in LA or if they do, you’re unaware of it because they wear sunglasses all the time—even indoors. I don’t know how they can see well enough to keep from stum- bling all over the place.

So let me make it clear—I’m a proud son of the South, but I can easily relate to folks from the Midwest, Southwest, and most of rural America. I feel a bit more disconnected from people who have never fired a gun, never fished with a cane pole, never cooked with propane, or never changed a tire. If people use “summer” as a verb as in, “we sum- mer in the Hamptons,” I probably don’t have much in common with them. If people don’t put pepper sauce on their black-eyed peas or or- der fried green tomatoes for an appetizer, I probably won’t relate to them without some effort.

This is a book about God, guns, grits, and gravy. It’s not a recipe book for Southern cuisine, nor a collection of religious devotionals, nor a manual on how to properly load a semiautomatic shotgun. It’s a book about what’s commonly referred to as “flyover country,”  the vast por- tion of real estate that sits between the East Coast and the West Coast and which more often than not votes red instead of blue, roots for the Cowboys in the NFL and the Cardinals in the National League, and has three or more Bibles in every house. It’s where there’s nothing un- usual at all about God, guns, grits, or gravy. It’s not a novelty; it’s not strange or weird. It’s a way of life.

It’s where I was born, raised, and have lived my entire life. I like it. I feel at home there. I’m a catfish and corn bread kind of guy, not a caviar and crab salad connoisseur.

This book will be very encouraging to people who live in Bubba- ville. And to those who live in Bubble-ville, it will be very enlightening. After you’ve read it, you’ll probably still want to live in your same bubble, but you might at least for the first time really understand those of us you fly over and look down on when you make the LA to New York red-eye flight and wonder, “Just what kind of people live there?” Because most of the movies and television shows portray people living in one of the bubbles, we know you pretty well. We get your unique phrases, attitudes, and even know something about your various neigh- borhoods. But I don’t think you know us very well. We really don’t live in Bugtussle and we do have indoor plumbing and electricity. So let me introduce you to the land and the people for whom God, guns, grits, and gravy all make perfect sense. After you finish the book, you might just say, “Dang, those good ol’ boys ain’t so dumb after all.”

See former Gov. Huckabee Sunday on “This Week.”

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Attorney General Eric Holder: David Petraeus Investigation Will Be Handled Fairly http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2015/01/attorney-general-eric-holder-david-petraeus-investigation-will-be-handled-fairly/ http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2015/01/attorney-general-eric-holder-david-petraeus-investigation-will-be-handled-fairly/#comments Sun, 11 Jan 2015 19:16:09 +0000 Benjamin Bell http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/?p=898003

Attorney General Eric Holder said today the ongoing investigation into former CIA Director Gen. David Petraeus over classified information he allegedly shared with his biographer and former lover Paula Broadwell would be conducted fairly, even as details of the investigation appeared to have leaked to The New York Times.

Following the report, Senators John McCain, R-Ariz., and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said in a mutual statement: “It is a shameful continuation of a pattern in which leaks by unnamed sources have marred this investigation in contravention to fundamental fairness. No American deserves such callous treatment, let alone one of America’s finest military leaders.”

In response to the senators’ statement, Holder said today on “This Week,” “I can’t really comment on what is an ongoing matter. But I will say that I share those concerns expressed by two senators who I have a great deal of respect for.

“But I also want to assure them and the American people that any investigation that is ongoing will be done in a fair and a — and an appropriate way,” he added.

Holder declined to say whether he had received a recommendation on whether to pursue charges against Petraeus, when asked by “This Week” anchor George Stephanopoulos. The New York Times reported that the attorney general had received a recommendation to pursue charges.

GTY david petraeus jt 150111 16x9 608 Attorney General Eric Holder: David Petraeus Investigation Will Be Handled Fairly

Former CIA director and retired four-star general General David Petraeus makes his first public speech since resigning as CIA director at University of Southern California dinner for students Veterans and ROTC students on March 26, 2013 in Los Angeles, Calif.

“As I said, I don’t want to really comment on what is an ongoing investigation. But I will say that frequently, those things that we characterize as leaks — they are frequently inaccurate. I’ll just leave it at that,” Holder said.

Joining “This Week” after Holder, new Senate Intelligence Committee chair Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., told Stephanopoulos that he did not think the alleged leaks by Petraeus put national security at risk.

“I have tremendous trust in the FBI to do their investigation. I still reference back to the president’s remarks when he announced Gen. Petraeus’ resignation, where he said this did not reach a level that put national security in jeopardy,” Burr said. “And I think the statute of the law says it has to reach that for there to be a prosecution.

“I’ll let the FBI and the Justice Department work through this,” he added. “The burden of proof is on the bureau and on the Justice Department, I think, to present to America where it was and why the president was wrong.”

Like “This Week” on Facebook here. You can also follow the show on Twitter here.

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Excerpt: ‘The Tyranny of Silence’ by Flemming Rose http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2015/01/excerpt-the-tyranny-of-silence-by-flemming-rose/ http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2015/01/excerpt-the-tyranny-of-silence-by-flemming-rose/#comments Sat, 10 Jan 2015 22:35:11 +0000 ABC News http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/?p=897993 HT tyranny of silence blur jt 150110 16x9 608 Excerpt: The Tyranny of Silence by Flemming Rose

'The Tyranny of Silence' by Flemming Rose

Excerpted from ‘The Tyranny of Silence‘ by Flemming Rose, by arrangement with the Cato Institute (USA), Inc., Copyright © Cato Institute 2014

Chapter One: From Where I Stand

It’s a Sunday morning in 2009, and I’m standing under the shower in a hotel room in Lyon. Rain drums against the window; at the end of a narrow street, I can just see one of the two rivers that flow through the city. In an hour, I’m due at city hall to participate in a panel discussion organized by the French newspaper Libération on challenges to free speech in Europe. I’ve been doing a lot of that kind of thing in the past several years. Yesterday, I was in Paris. Earlier in the week, I was involved in a heated exchange at a conference in Berlin about Muslims and Islam in the European media. As I began speaking, a member of the audience stood up, approached the panel, and in a voice trembling with fury demanded to know who had given me the right to tell Muslims like her about democracy. She then turned toward the organizers, angrily asked how they could even consider inviting someone like me, and then stormed out of the room.

Everywhere I go, I seem to provoke controversy. At American universities, I’ve been met by placards and students protesting against my speaking. When I was scheduled to lecture at a university in Jerusalem, a demonstration called for my removal. When I talked about freedom of speech at a UNESCO conference in Doha last spring, local media branded me the “the Danish Satan,”1 the authorities were inundated with angry emails, and the Ministry of Internal Affairs set up a hotline for citizens who complained about my having even been allowed into the country.

In the spring of 2006, I was invited by the Oxford Union to take part in a discussion on freedom of speech, democracy, and respect for religious sentiment. That body is accustomed to controversy. Nevertheless, my visit turned into what local media alleged was the biggest security operation the city had seen since Michael Jackson’s visit in 2001. When I was invited to the World Association of Newspapers’ forum in Moscow a few years ago, Russian authorities politely yet firmly implied that they would like me to stay away. I didn’t fully comprehend their hints, so I went to Moscow oblivious. Since then, I have been unable to secure a visa, although I am married to a Russian and lived in Moscow under Soviet rule as a foreign correspondent for 12 years.

During that time, though I was clearly anti-communist and openly socialized with dissidents, visas were never a problem. I could go on citing similar incidents, but what would be the point? On this autumn morning, the picture seems clear. I have become a figure many love to hate. Some would like to see me dead. I have wracked my brain trying to figure out why. I am not by nature a provocative person. I do not seek conflict for its own sake, and it gives me no pleasure when people take offense at things I have said or done. Nevertheless, I have been branded by many as a careless troublemaker who pays no heed to the consequences of his actions. How did that happen? To the world, I am known as an editor of the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten. In September 2005, I commissioned and published a number of cartoons about Islam, prompted by my perception of self-censorship by the European media. One of those cartoons, drawn by the artist Kurt Westergaard, depicted the Muslim prophet Muhammad with a bomb wrapped in his turban. Among the other cartoons we published was another that mocked the newspaper and even myself for commissioning them, but it was Westergaard’s image that would change my life.

The Cartoon Crisis, as it became known, spiraled into a violent international uproar, as Muslims around the world erupted in protest. Danish embassies were attacked, and more than 200 deaths were attributed to the protests.

I came to symbolize one of the defining issues of our era: the tension between respect for cultural diversity and the protection of democratic freedoms. This book is an attempt to reconcile that public symbolism with my personal story. How did the publication of a few cartoons prompt an upheaval so extreme that, five years on, I was still grappling with it? As with most monumental events, there seems to be no simple explanation. Some believe that my newspaper, Jyllands-Posten, carries the main responsibility for the uproar, while others point to Danish imams who traveled around the Middle East inflaming Muslim opinion. Some believe Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen is the main villain because he did not criticize the cartoons and refused to discuss them with ambassadors from Muslim countries. Still others feel the Organization of the Islamic Conference played a decisive part in orchestrating a conflict to promote that body’s rather specific take on human rights, involving an effort to criminalize criticism of Islam under the somewhat ambiguous label “Islamophobia.” Many say countries like Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan took advantage of the cartoons to divert attention from domestic problems. Yet others view the clash as part of a broader struggle between Islam and the West, exploited by radical Islamists to spur followers toward a holy war. Finally, there are those who blame the secular unbelief of most Danes for their failure to understand the religious sensitivities of Muslims.

Even though the drawings were conceived in a Danish and European context, the debate is global. It touches on issues fundamental to any kind of society: freedom of speech and of religion, tolerance and intolerance, immigration and integration, Islam and Europe, majorities and minorities, and globalization, to name but a few. What do you do when suddenly the entire world is on your back? When one misunderstanding leads to another? When what you have said and done has the world seething with anger and indignation? What do you say to people who ask how you can sleep at night when hundreds of people have died because of what you have done?

What do you say when you are accused of being a racist or a fascist, and of wanting to start the next world war? In the past five years, I have spent most of my energy trying to address and to understand the criticism that has been leveled at my newspaper and at me. Physically and mentally, it has been an arduous journey: educational, but on occasion overwhelming. I have engaged with people on all sides of the political spectrum, with friends and enemies, believers and nonbelievers of every stripe.

Oddly enough, the dividing lines between us don’t coincide with the kinds of political, religious, cultural, or geographic categories one might expect. I don’t claim that most Muslims have been on my side, but some have supported publication of the cartoons, while some Christians and atheists have strongly condemned them. I have compiled an enormous archive of comments and analyses on the Cartoon Crisis from all over the world. At first, I wanted to document that I was right and that others were wrong. But along the way, I found that I needed to look inward, to reflect on my own history and background. Why was this debate so important for me? Why was I from the outset, almost instinctively, able to identify the core issue? Why did the abstract principle of freedom of speech speak to me more than it apparently did to other people? I do have strong opinions when it comes to certain things. But I am not a person who takes an instant stand on just anything. I am a natural skeptic. I ponder at length and lose myself in layers of meaning and the many sides of an issue. I don’t see that trait as a flaw: it is the condition of modern man and indeed the core strength of secular democracies, which are founded on the idea that there is no monopoly on truth.

Doubt is the germ of curiosity and critical questioning, and its prerequisite is a strong sense of self, a courage that leaves room for debate. Of course, doubt is by no means unequivocally a good thing. Questioning everything may lead to the point where there seem to be no truths and everything appears equally right or wrong. In a world of such relativity, there is no fundamental difference between the prisoner in a concentration camp and the regime that incarcerates him, between perpetrator and victim, between those who defend and those who suppress freedom.

That existential dimension of politics first became apparent to me when I traveled to the Soviet Union as a student in 1980. I had no strong preconceptions about the country; politics was peripheral to my youth. What occupied me most were the more esoteric challenges of philosophy, and I was eager to learn more about Russian culture. A long time passed before I began to draw conclusions.

I met my wife that first year and later spent a decade as a correspondent based in Moscow. Over the years, the gravity of life gradually dawned on me. Growing up in Denmark in the 1960s and 1970s during a time of youthful rebellion, I was naturally imbued with the era’s atmosphere of freedom and community. Now, it struck me that freedom could not be taken for granted. People paid a high price for expressing their views. Words meant a great deal—they involved consequences. People were so fearful that official censorship was almost an afterthought. There reigned a tyranny of silence.

All stories begin and end with individuals, their choices and decisions. When I interviewed the author Salman Rushdie in 2009, he articulated a problem with which I had struggled in the wake of the Cartoon Crisis. I had difficulty coming to terms with the fact that others were telling my story and interpreting my motives without, I felt, knowing who I was. When we spoke, Rushdie observed that from childhood, we use storytelling as a way of defining and understanding ourselves. It is a phenomenon that derives from a language instinct that is universal and innate in human nature. Any attempt to restrict that impulse isn’t just censorship or a political violation of freedom of speech; it is an act of violence against human nature, an existential assault that turns people into something they are not. What differentiates open and closed societies is the right to tell and retell our own and other people’s stories. In the open society, history moves forward through the exchange of new narratives. Think of slavery in the United States, National Socialism in Germany, and communism in the Eastern Bloc, each overcome by challenges to the conventional way of telling the story.

In closed societies, the narrative is dictated by the state, and the individual is reduced to a silent, passive object. Dissident voices are punished and censored. In a democracy, no one can claim the exclusive right to tell certain stories. That means, to me, that Muslims have the right to tell jokes and critical stories about Jews, while nonbelievers may skewer Islam in any way they wish. Whites can laugh at blacks, and blacks at whites. To assert that only minorities may tell jokes about themselves, or criticize other minorities, is both grossly discriminating and foolish. By such logic, only Nazis may criticize Nazis, since in present-day Europe they are a persecuted and marginalized minority. Today, a majority of the world opposes female circumcision, forced marriages, and ritual violence against women. Should we be unable to criticize cultures that still adhere to those practices because they are minorities?

According to some of Europe’s militant multiculturalists, the answer is yes. But people in democracies should not be forced to live inside echo chambers in which the like-minded tend only to reinforce their own opinions. It is vital to transgress borders between societal groups through dialogue, and it is important to be exposed to the opinions and beliefs of others. People who talk to one another, exchange views, and tell conflicting stories will affect one another’s way of thinking. Rushdie told me that the conflict over the right to tell a certain story was at the center of his own freedom-of-speech controversy.

He said: The only answer you can give from my side of the table is that everyone has a right to tell their story in any way they wish. This goes back to the question of what sort of society we want. If you wish to live in an open society, it follows that people will talk about things in different ways, and some of them will cause offense and anger. The answer to that is matter-of-fact: OK, you don’t like it, but there are lots of things I don’t like either. That’s the price for living in an open society. From the moment you begin to talk about limiting and controlling certain expressions, you step into a world where freedom no longer reigns, and from that moment on, you are only discussing what level of un-freedom you want to accept. You have already accepted the principle of not being free. Rushdie’s words came just at the right time for me. They opened my eyes and helped me define my own project. We all are entitled to tell whatever story we wish about the Muhammad cartoons. Thus, this book doesn’t attempt to cover every aspect of what happened. I am fully aware that other versions exist that are no less true than my own; in some cases, they may be even more complete. I am simply recounting the events as I experienced them and other stories that I deem to be relevant to that experience. My personal quest is to create coherence and meaning out of events that have taken up a lot of room in my own life and in the lives of many others since September 2005.

So this book is also about my own values, about things that are significant to me—books I have read, countries I have visited. It tries to position individual experience within the wider perspective, to explore the relation between my own story and the Cartoon Crisis as a series of events played out on a global scene. In the space between the big picture and the small lies the answer to my own conflict—the image I have of myself as a person who is not fond of conflict—against the wider, global view of me as a dangerous and irresponsible troublemaker.

So I also look back to the historical forces that have shaped my attitudes, to European history and its sweeping debates on issues such as faith and doubt, knowledge and ignorance, which have shaped the very notion of tolerance. My experiences have confirmed my basic belief that people have a lot more in common than whatever divides them. Apparent differences of culture, religion, and history are significant factors, but they are by no means constant; they change, however slowly. Think of countries such as Spain, Greece, Portugal, South Korea, Chile, and South Africa: until only a few decades ago, brutal authoritarian and oppressive regimes; now open, constitutional societies. Such examples show that we should be hesitant about writing off any culture as innately incompatible with liberty and democracy.

Current discussion concerning Islam and Muslims reminds me of the debate about communism and the Soviet Russians during the Cold War. At the time, it was often said that whereas we in the West emphasized freedom and the rights of the citizen, in Eastern Europe, more weight was attached to social rights—the right to work, to housing, and to free health care and education. That distinction was put forth as intrinsically cultural; thus, criticism of the Soviet Bloc for civil rights violations was an expression of Western imperialism. I watched a parallel sentiment emerge in the wake of the Cartoon Crisis: a willingness to compromise what we in the West consider fundamental rights because of supposedly intractable “cultural differences.” My impression was that my friends and acquaintances in Soviet Russia wanted the kind of constitutional freedom and equality encompassed in the notion of universal human rights. But many scholars in the West accepted the premise that Russians were fundamentally different from people in the West; therefore, on the issue of the way it treated its citizens, the Soviet regime could not be judged by Western standards. That notion explains why they were completely unable to foresee the collapse of the regime after popular revolt: to justify their dubious premise, those scholars were compelled to marginalize the Soviet human rights movement and other dissident groups. They claimed that such groups were just manipulated by the West as part of a global political maneuver.

Exactly the same is claimed now about human rights activists and critics of Islam in the Muslim world. It’s true that real incompatibilities and disparities of culture between the Islamic world and Europe played out during the conflict. The truth, however, is that the jury is out as long as the population is prevented from speaking freely and without fear of reprisal. Freethinking forces exist in the Islamic world, insisting on free religious exercise and freedom of speech. That was confirmed during the uprisings throughout the Arab world in 2011.

While the Cartoon Crisis raged, a number of newspaper and magazine editors were arrested, and their offices were closed down because they had printed the cartoons—because, although they may have found them distasteful, they believed their readers should have the chance to make up their own minds about the now-notorious drawings. One of those people, Jihad Momani, editor-in-chief of the Jordanian weekly Shihan, wrote the following with reference to a terrorist attack on three hotels in Amman in November 2005: “Muslims of the world, be sensible.. . . What is more damaging to Islam? These cartoons, images of a hostage-taker cutting the throat of his victim in front of a camera, or a suicide bomber blowing himself up at a wedding in Amman?”

I note, too, that large parts of the Iranian population rejected an Islamic take on “constitutional rights” put forward in elections in 2009, and many Iranians in the West were actively supportive of Jyllands-Posten during the Cartoon Crisis. They knew from experience what was at stake if censorship of religious satire and criticism should be accepted. The Cartoon Crisis provides insight into the kind of world that lies ahead in the 21st century. It was a crisis about how to coexist in a world in which old boundaries have crumbled. Today, societies everywhere are becoming more multiethnic, multicultural, and multireligious. And for the first time in history, a majority of the world’s population now inhabits urban areas. Increasingly, we live side by side with people who are different from ourselves. The risk of stepping on someone’s toes, of saying or doing something that exceeds someone’s bounds, is steadily The Tyranny of Silence increasing. Moreover, advances in communications technologies have meant that events even in the remotest regions of the world are no longer perceived as being distant. All notion of context disappears. Everything that appears on the Internet appears everywhere. For humor and satire in particular, the loss of context opens the door to myriad possible misunderstandings and sources of offense.

Thus, in 2006, the Iranian authorities demanded an apology for a satirical drawing in the German newspaper Der Tagesspiegel showing four Iranian soccer players strapped up with bombs and being watched by German soldiers. The accompanying text read, “The German army should definitely be deployed during the World Cup.”

The joke was aimed at German politicians who wanted armed forces to patrol the tournament that was taking place in Germany. But the Iranian religious leadership saw things differently. Molotov cocktails were thrown at the German embassy in Tehran, while the artist responsible for the work was forced into hiding because of death threats. Another German paper once printed a cartoon poking fun at the private parts of the heir to the Japanese throne—unthinkable in Japan, where the royal family is almost religiously revered. Comedians are often keenly aware of the fine line between dangerous and harmless provocation. During a live television show in 2006, Norwegian comedian Otto Jespersen set fire to the Old Testament in the town of Ålesund, a strong bastion of Christian sentiment. Later, when asked to repeat the stunt with a copy of the Koran, Jespersen declined, joking that he would prefer to live longer than another week. It seemed that Christianity was being treated preferentially. Or was it Islam? In any case, the Norwegian prime minister leveled no criticism of the public burning of Christianity’s holy book—which is fine by me, but why then did he find it so necessary to condemn a small Norwegian newspaper when it reprinted the Muhammad cartoons? I believe I know the answer to that. But back in September 2005, I certainly did not, which is one of the reasons why Jyllands-Posten and I decided to draw attention to the issue of self-censorship in the public debate on Islam in the first place.

If we believe in equality, it seems there are two available responses to threats against freedom of speech. One option is, basically, “If you accept my taboos, I’ll accept yours.” If one group wants protection against insult, then all groups should be so protected. If denying the Holocaust or the crimes of communism is against the law, then publishing cartoons depicting the Muslim prophet should also be forbidden. Butthat option can quickly spiral out of control: before we know it, hardly anything may be said.

The second option is to say that in a democracy, there is no “right not to be offended.” Since we are all different, the challenge is then to formulate minimum constraints on freedom of speech that will allow us to coexist in peace. A society comprising many different cultures should have greater freedom of expression than a society that is significantly more homogenous. That premise seems obvious to me, yet the opposite conviction is widely held, and that is where the tyranny of silence lurks. At present, the tendency in Europe is to deal with increasing diversity by constraining freedom of speech, whereas the United States maintains a long tradition of leading off in the other direction. Following the collapse of the Eastern Bloc, many European countries have outlawed Holocaust denial, for example, and it appears that the United States will increasingly stand alone with its tradition of upholding near-absolute freedom of expression on that issue.

My personal view is that the Americans are right. Freedom and tolerance are, to me, two sides of the same coin, and both are under pressure. As noted earlier, the world is undergoing rapid change. Taking offense has never been easier, or indeed more popular: many have developed sensitivity so exquisite that it has become excessive. It almost tempts one to ask Europe’s welfare states to spend some money, not on “sensitivity training”—learning what not to say—but on insensitivity training: learning how to tolerate. For if freedom and tolerance are to have a chance of surviving in the new world, we all need to develop thicker skin. Certain regimes, including Russia, China, some former Soviet republics, and numerous Islamic governments, agitate in the United Nations and other international forums for laws banning offensive speech.

Perversely, although such laws are often put forward in the name of minorities, in practice, they are used to silence critics and persecute minorities. Unfortunately, such petitions have traction in the international community. Their proponents are prepared to sacrifice diversity of expression in the name of respecting diversity of culture, a contradiction they clearly fail to perceive. They feel they will further social harmony by maintaining a delicate balance between tolerance and freedom of speech—as though the two were opposites. But tolerance and freedom of speech reinforce each other. Free speech makes sense only in a society that exercises great tolerance of those with whom it disagrees. Historically, tolerance and freedom of speech are each other’s prerequisites rather than opposites. In a liberal democracy, the two must be tightly intertwined.

This book comprises nine additional chapters. Three of them consist largely of interviews with individuals who in one way or another have been close to the Cartoon Crisis, and who here shed light on some of its most significant aspects. The first is a Spanish woman whose husband was killed in the Madrid terrorist attack in March 2004, and who later appeared at the trial of the perpetrators wearing a T-shirt showing Kurt Westergaard’s cartoon of Muhammad with a bomb in his turban.

Next, I speak with Westergaard himself about his upbringing, his background, and his work, in the light of Denmark’s history of free speech and censorship. I include an interview that took place in a detention center south of Copenhagen with Karim Sørensen, a young Tunisian who in February 2008 was apprehended by Danish police on suspicion of planning to assassinate Kurt Westergaard. As Muslims, Karim Sørensen and two of his associates felt offended by Westergaard’s depiction of the Prophet. I interweave my own version of the Cartoon Crisis and events before and after publication of the drawings in September 2005 with the story of some of the constraints that have been imposed on freedom of speech. I take a look at efforts today to reestablish so-called violation codes: blasphemy legislation, laws against the incitement of hatred and discrimination, and laws criminalizing the denial or trivialization of genocide or specific historic events.

I look at my encounters with Russian dissidents in the Soviet Union. In my view, the history of Russian dissidence is highly relevant to the Cartoon Crisis—even though the Soviet Union no longer exists, and the Cold War long ago ended—because I feel it mirrors the emergence of new dissident communities within Islam. Included are interviews I have conducted with Ayaan Hirsi Ali in New York, with Afshin Ellian in Leiden, and with Maryam Namazie in Cologne and London.What those critics say is by no means new: in many ways, there is nothing to add to the discourse on liberty and human rights. Nevertheless, their stories are of immense importance for Europe and the West in general, demonstrating that the desire for freedom is by no means exclusive to the West, and that individuals in other cultures run enormous risks to stand up for “Western” values of freedom and tolerance.

In the book’s final chapter, I examine the global struggle for universal human rights. I tell the story of the heretic Michael Servetus, who was burned at the stake in Geneva in 1553, triggering the first great debate in Europe on the issue of religious tolerance. It is a debate that I had thought was won, after the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the communist empire. I failed to see that Ayatollah Khomeini’s call to all the world’s Muslims to kill Salman Rushdie because of something he wrote in a novel was another major historical turning point. Today, it seems clear that the Rushdie affair was the first collision in a global conflict that seems likely to shape international relations in the 21st century.

Nowhere are freedom and tolerance as deeply ingrained as in the West. That I endeavor to illustrate in the final chapter of the book with stories from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Egypt, Russia, and India, which outline how individuals and groups of individuals suffer violations of their right to free speech and free thought. Well-meaning people in the West claim that democracies can and should sacrifice a little free speech in the name of social harmony: those stories may lead them to reconsider. Measures ostensibly designed to protect religious symbols, doctrines, and rituals in order to prevent discrimination can lead to horrible persecution of the right to speak freely. That is one of the main reasons I continue to defend our right to publish the Muhammad cartoons. If I relinquish that right, I also indirectly accept the right of authoritarian regimes and totalitarian movements to limit free speech on grounds of violation of religion and religious sentiments. I find that unacceptable.

I woke up this morning to an empty sky.

—Bruce Springsteen

It’s October 2007, and I’m sitting with Maria Gomez1 in the café of the Gran Hotel Canarias across from Madrid’s Prado Museum. She’s wearing jeans, a loose-fitting white blouse, and sunglasses to shade her eyes from the sharp glare of the afternoon sun. I order coffee with cold milk while Maria lights a cigarette. She seems restless. Tears well in her eyes as she recalls what happened three and a half years ago. During the course of our conversation, her mood swings from sorrow to anger, from dark humor to helplessness. Since the death of her husband in an explosion that ripped through a train on the outskirts Madrid in 2004, Gomez has been unable to work. A year ago, she and their baby daughter traveled to the island of Menorca to make a fresh start, while her first husband took care of their two sons. The vacation was a disaster; Maria fell into a depression.

Her mother, to whom she feels especially close, developed cancer and is terminally ill. Maria’s only source of income is the tiny widow’s pension she receives from the state. All that and much more she reveals to me that warm autumn day, taking me back to March 11, 2004, a day she and 46 million other Spaniards will never forget. It was a Thursday. As usual, Maria Gomez was up early. She prepared breakfast for her children. The modest little home in a sleepy suburb north of the city was quiet. No television or radio—at that time of day, Maria Gomez wasn’t interested in what was going on in the world outside. She loved the calm that filled her home in those early morning hours.

Shortly after 7:00 a.m., Maria texted her 34-year-old husband Carlos, who had been working all night as a welder doing some construction work in a supermarket in Alcalá de Henares.

“Good morning, my love, looking forward to you getting home,” she wrote.

 

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Sunday on ‘This Week’: Terror in Paris http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2015/01/sunday-on-this-week-terror-in-paris/ http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2015/01/sunday-on-this-week-terror-in-paris/#comments Fri, 09 Jan 2015 20:30:08 +0000 ABC News http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/?p=897975 RT france hostage4 ml 150109 16x9 608 Sunday on This Week: Terror in Paris

Gonzalo Fuentes/Reuters

On Sunday, “This Week” covers the latest on the terror attack in Paris, with Attorney General Eric Holder, and Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., the new chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

See the whole picture, Sunday on “This Week.”

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Rep-Elect Mia Love: Steve Scalise Should Stay House Whip Despite Klan Controversy http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2015/01/rep-elect-mia-love-steve-scalise-should-stay-house-whip-despite-klan-controversy/ http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2015/01/rep-elect-mia-love-steve-scalise-should-stay-house-whip-despite-klan-controversy/#comments Sun, 04 Jan 2015 19:16:22 +0000 Ali Dukakis http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/?p=897907

Representative-elect Mia Love, R-Utah, the first black woman elected to Congress as a Republican and one of the GOP’s 74 fresh faces scheduled to be sworn in on Tuesday, says that despite the controversy surrounding House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-Lousiana, she thinks he should remain a leader to the newly reinvigorated party.

The third-highest ranked Republican in the House of Representatives, Scalise came under fire last week after he reportedly attended a civil rights workshop organized by a group of alleged white supremacists in 2002.

Of note among the organizers was David Duke, the then-president of the European-American Unity and Rights Organization (EURO) and former Knights of the Ku Klux Klan grand wizard.

When asked by ABC’s Martha Raddatz today on “This Week” what her initial reaction to the news was, Love said, “My first thoughts [were] this was 12 years ago. It’s interesting that it’s coming up now… I found that really interesting.”

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ABC News

Love called the groups “awful,” and said that the last thing she wants is to give them any sort of publicity or credibility by discussing them. Instead, Love focused on expressing her support for her GOP compatriot Scalise, who she says has aided in her transition to Congress.

“I can say, as far as I’m concerned, with Rep. Scalise, he has been absolutely wonderful to work with. He’s been very helpful for me and he has had the support of his colleagues,” she said.

But with the GOP’s congressional takeover set to officially begin this week, many have voiced concerns that starting off the new Congress with scandal-embroiled Scalise in leadership could derail a successful kick-off to the party’s new reign, and undermine the new Republican identity. Mia Love isn’t one of them.

“I believe he should remain in leadership. There’s one quality that he has that I think is very important in leadership, and that’s humility. And he’s actually shown that in this case,” she said.

“He’s apologized, and I think that we need to move on and get the work of the American people done,” Love later added.

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Fauci: 2015 Will be ‘Bad Year’ for the Flu http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2015/01/fauci-2015-will-be-bad-year-for-the-flu/ http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2015/01/fauci-2015-will-be-bad-year-for-the-flu/#comments Sun, 04 Jan 2015 17:49:59 +0000 ABC News http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/?p=897899

Reporting by Kari Rea

Flu season has hit the U.S. particularly hard this year and the widespread outbreak has officially been declared an epidemic by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. High flu activity is reported in 22 states, with increased hospitalizations across the country.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said today that Americans are in for a rough flu season.

“If you look at the trajectory, it’s not going to be a good year. It’s going to be a bad year,” Fauci told ABC’s Martha Raddatz on “This Week.” “How bad it’s going to be will depend on how it actually evolves.”

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National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci on 'This Week'

Children, people over age 65, and those with weak immune systems are especially vulnerable to the flu. So far this year, 15 children have died from flu complications, while dozens more flu deaths have been reported nationwide.

Fauci told ABC News that the spread of the virus is “difficult to predict,” but that experts track “patterns” of influenza cases across the country.

“The one thing about the flu that you can be sure, it’s really unpredictable,” Fauci said when asked how widely the flu could spread. “At the end of the day, it just devolves and it’s difficult to predict.”

Why the Flu May be Especially Deadly This Year

Ways You’re Washing Your Hands Wrong

Fauci said this year’s vaccine is only 33 percent effective in preventing the flu because the virus started to “drift” and mutate after the vaccine was already manufactured.

Though this year’s vaccine is not a strong match for the most prevalent strain of the flu, Fauci still encouraged people to get vaccinated.

“Even though it isn’t a good match to what’s circulating… getting vaccinated can give you cross protection. It could be the difference between getting very sick or just being mildly sick, the difference between being hospitalized or not,” Fauci said. “So we strongly recommend people getting vaccinated.”

Despite the 67 percent ineffectiveness rate of this year’s vaccine, Fauci recommended that those at high risk — such as children and the elderly — seek treatment if they feel ill.

“Particularly people at high risk … should get an anti-viral drug. They should see their physicians, because the anti-influenza drugs can be very, very helpful for people, particularly at high risk,” Fauci said.

Unfortunately, there’s no light at the end of the tunnel for those hoping to avoid the flu this year: Flu season peaks between December and February and can last as late as May.

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