EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

October 9, 2013

Around the World and Nation


The Eagle-Tribune

---- — Did Obama swap controversial detention sites?

WASHINGTON (AP) — Instead of sending suspected terrorists to Guantanamo Bay or secret CIA “black” sites for interrogation, the Obama administration is questioning terrorists for as long as it takes aboard U.S. naval vessels.

And it’s doing it in a way that preserves the government’s ability to ultimately prosecute the suspects in civilian courts.

That’s the pattern emerging with the recent capture of Abu Anas al-Libi, one of the FBI’s most wanted terrorists, long-sought for his alleged role in the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Africa. He was captured in a raid Saturday and is being held aboard the USS San Antonio, an amphibious warship mainly used to transport troops.

Questioning suspected terrorists aboard U.S. warships in international waters is President Barack Obama’s answer to the Bush administration detention policies that candidate Obama promised to end. The strategy also makes good on Obama’s pledge to prosecute terrorists in U.S. civilian courts, which many Republicans have argued against. But it also raises questions about using “law of war” powers to circumvent the safeguards of the U.S. criminal justice system.

By holding people in secret prisons, known as black sites, the CIA was able to question them over long periods, using the harshest interrogation tactics, without giving them access to lawyers. Obama came to office without a ready replacement for those secret prisons. The concern was that if a terrorist was sent directly to court, the government might never know what intelligence he had. With the black sites closed and Obama refusing to send more people to the U.S. detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, it wasn’t obvious where the U.S. would hold people for interrogation.

Supreme Court weighs lifting limits on overall giving

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court is tackling a challenge to limits on contributions by the biggest individual donors to political campaigns.

The case being argued at the high court Tuesday is a test of the Roberts court’s readiness to take its most aggressive swipe at campaign finance laws since its Citizens United decision in 2010 took the lid off independent spending by corporations and labor unions.

Supporters of campaign finance laws say the case poses a threat to the contribution limits that Congress first enacted in 1974, in the wake of Watergate abuses.

Republican activist Shaun McCutcheon of Hoover, Ala., the national Republican Party and Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky want the court to overturn the overall limits on what contributors may give in a two-year federal election cycle. The total is $123,200, including a separate $48,600 cap on contributions to candidates, for 2013 and 2014.

The limit on individual contributions to any candidate for Congress in any given election, currently $2,600, is not at issue in this case.

Insurers, others say there’s still time to fix online glitches in ‘Obamacare’

WASHINGTON (AP) — The federal government’s biggest foray into online commerce has left millions of tech-savvy Americans thoroughly bewildered.

But the insurance industry and others experienced with rolling out new programs say there’s still enough time to fix the glitches with President Barack Obama’s health care law before uninsured people start getting coverage on Jan. 1.

The online enrollment system at healthcare.gov was down again for upgrades in the wee hours Tuesday. It made its debut just a week ago and technical experts already have been called in to fix problems several times.

Consumers in different parts of the country Monday continued to report delays, as well as problems setting up security questions for their accounts. However, the administration says the site’s crowded electronic “waiting room” is thinning out.

Despite the confusion, the insurance industry has held off public criticism. Alarmed that only a trickle of customers got through initially, insurers now say enrollments are starting to come in and they expect things to improve.

American adults out-performed by many global peers on workplace skills assessment test

WASHINGTON (AP) — It’s long been known that America’s school kids haven’t measured well compared with international peers. Now, there’s a new twist: Adults don’t either.

In math, reading and problem-solving using technology — all skills considered critical for global competitiveness and economic strength — American adults scored below the international average on a global test, according to results released Tuesday.

Adults in Japan, Canada, Australia, Finland and multiple other countries scored significantly higher than the United States in all three areas on the test. Beyond basic reading and math, respondents were tested on activities such as calculating mileage reimbursement due to a salesman, sorting email and comparing food expiration dates on grocery store tags.

Not only did Americans score poorly compared to many international competitors, the findings reinforced just how large the gap is between the nation’s high- and low-skilled workers and how hard it is to move ahead when your parents haven’t.

In both reading and math, for example, those with college educated parents did better than those whose parents did not complete high school.

Police ID NJ man who set himself on fire on National Mall; no word on why he did it

WASHINGTON (AP) — The man who set himself on fire on the National Mall and later died was identified Monday, though police had no more information on his possible reasons.

John Constantino, 64, of Mount Laurel, N.J., had burns so severe that authorities needed to use DNA and dental records to identify him. District of Columbia police spokesman Paul Metcalf in an emailed statement confirmed his identity.

Constantino poured the contents of a red canister of gasoline on himself in the center portion of the mall Friday afternoon. He then set himself ablaze, with passing joggers taking off their shirts to help put out the flames. Police had said he was conscious and breathing at the scene.

But he died Friday night at a Washington hospital where he had been airlifted.

Police are investigating the man’s possible motives. Lt. Pamela Smith of the U.S. Park Police said she was not aware that he had carried any signs with him or had articulated a cause.