Obama appoints Denis McDonough as his next chief of staff; the UN will investigate drone attacks; and the Senate will vote on a Sandy relief package on Monday. Meanwhile, Coachella announces its 2013 lineup; Manti Te’o opens up to Katie Couric; and JJ Abrams will direct ”Star Wars” reboot.
Caitlin + Liza
Obama chief of staff: Denis McDonough, http://politi.co/W4A4m1
President Obama made the long-expected appointment of Denis McDonough as White House chief of staff on Friday. McDonough has served as the president’s deputy national security adviser since 2009, and is seen as an unconventional pick due to his little experience with domestic policy. He will also be the youngest chief of staff in over three decades. “There are a lot of hardworking, affable, good people in town, but not many have the relationship with the president Denis does,” noted former Senator Tom Daschle. McDonough’s appointment is part of the president’s broader cabinet reshuffling, with current chief of staff Jack Lew awaiting confirmation as the next treasury secretary.
United Nations to Investigate Drone Killings, http://reut.rs/149A331
The United Nations began an investigation yesterday into whether or not civilian deaths from drone strikes are war crimes. The investigation comes as a response to strong criticisms of drone strikes, which kill high numbers of civilians, and will look at photographic and forensic materials as well as witness accounts that will be presented at the UN in October. Currently, the United States carries out more drone attacks than any other nation. “To date, there has been abysmal lack of transparency and no accountability for the U.S. government’s ever-expanding targeted killing program,” said Hina Shamsi, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Security Project.
Sandy Senate Vote Set for Monday, http://politi.co/YsmOdi
Three months after Hurricane Sandy rocked the northeast, Congress is finally hoping to sign off on a long-awaited relief package for the region. The Senate will vote on Monday on a package of over $50 million in aid. House Speaker John Boehner came under fire for letting the first relief bill die in the final days of the 112th Congress; however, the House finally passed the new relief package last week. Currently, Senate Republicans are stalling to pass the aid package, saying it contains too many unrelated amendments. States hit by Sandy will need strong Democratic support to see the legislation passed.
New home sales fall, housing recovery still on track, http://reut.rs/14deFdf
The U.S. Department of Commerce announced today that the housing market remains strong in the country’s economic recovery despite a 7.3 percent drop in single-family home sales for December. In November, the pace of home sales was the fastest since 2010, while the median price for a new home grew between November and December. Economists found the momentary sales drop to be a mere short-term fall, with the housing market still expected to help offset economic damage from tax hikes made earlier this year. “This should prove to be a temporary blip as the U.S. housing market continues its gradual recovery,” said Andrew Grantham with CIBC World Markets.
Sen. Feinstein introduces sweeping ban on military-style assault weapons, http://bit.ly/10UiwwQ
Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA) and Senate Democrats introduced a bill on Thursday that would ban the sale and manufacture of over 150 types of semi-automatic weapons as well as magazines holding over ten rounds of ammunition. “We must balance the desire of a few to own military-style assault weapons with the growing threat to lives across America,” said Feinstein, who acknowledged that her bill would likely be met with strong opposition from both the NRA and congressional Republicans. The bill was co-sponsored by Senators Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, home state to the Newtown shooting.
North Korea Turns its Combativeness Towards the South, http://nyti.ms/Y30vXT
Just one day after threatening to attack the U.S., North Korea claimed it would take “countermeasures” against South Korea if the nation helped enforce tight United Nations sanctions placed against the North. The United Nations on Tuesday had condemned a rocket launched by North Korea and resolved to ban the nation from testing ballistic-missile technology, sparking a slew of verbal threats. North Korea did not note what specific actions it would take against South Korea, but some worry the nations could approach war.
Coachella 2013: Blur, Phoenix, Red Hot Chili Peppers to headline, http://lat.ms/V23gbo
Manti Te’o Denies Gay Rumors, Expresses Regrets During Katie Couric Interview, http://bit.ly/W3l6vO
J.J. Abrams Set to Direct Next ‘Star Wars’ Film, http://bit.ly/VaeKHS
‘Zero Dark Thirty’ & Pakistan: Controversial Film About Bin Laden’s Killing Will Not Screen in Country Where It Is Set, http://huff.to/V4v12Q
American Idol Accused of Racism by 9 Black Ex-Contestants, http://tmz.me/14gEc4l