In today’s news, Congress will pass a $662 billion defense bill; Herman Cain says his dream job is Defense Secretary; death sentences are at a record low; and Google will release a Siri rival. In entertainment news, the Golden Globe nominees have been announced, and Howard Stern is America’s Got Talent‘s newest judge.
Coral + Caitlin
Defense bill nears passage in Congress, http://bit.ly/t1x0YO
Congress is close to passing a massive defense spending bill that will authorize $662 billion for the military. The House voted 283-136 Wednesday night in a rare show of bipartisan cooperation. The Senate is expected to pass the bill today and send it to President Obama. The President and senior members of his national security team including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta put the pressure on the House and Senate negotiators that were working on the bill last week. Press Secretary Jay Carney said the new bill “does not challenge the president’s ability to collect intelligence, incapacitate dangerous terrorists and protect the American people.”
Iraq war draws to a quiet close, http://wapo.st/u4B3J5
The official end of the Iraq war has been marked by a ceremony in Baghdad that U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta attended. All troops will be pulled out out by Dec. 31. “Let me be clear, Iraq will be tested in the days ahead, by terrorism, by those who would seek to divide” Panetta warned, as the symbolic battle flag of the U.S. was lowered Thursday. He also hailed the armed services and the Iraqi people. Nearly 4,500 U.S. soldiers and tens of thousands of Iraqis have lost their lives in the war that began nearly nine years ago. Panetta said “your sacrifice has helped the Iraqi people begin a new chapter in history, free from tyranny.”
French ex-President Jacques Chirac guilty of corruption, http://bbc.in/rVcGit
Former President of France Jacques Chirac has been found guilty of diverting public funds and abusing public trust. The charges date back to Chirac’s time as the mayor of Paris. Chirac did not appear in court to hear the verdict due to health problems. He received a two-year suspended sentence and denies any wrongdoing. He is accused of paying members of his own Rally for the Republic party for city jobs that did not exist.
Syrian Army Defectors Ambush Soldiers, http://nyti.ms/uucTTJ
On Wednesday, eight members of Syria’s security forces were killed in an ambush by military defectors. The move was a retaliation for the deaths of five people earlier in the day. The defectors attacked four military vehicles with rocket-propelled grenades and gunfire on a supply route between the central city of Hama and the northern province near Turkey, where troops have been fighting against military defectors. This was the second attack by army defectors this week.
Weekly unemployment benefit applications fall to lowest level in more than 3 years, http://wapo.st/v8ar6r
The number of people filing unemployment benefit applications fell last week to 366,000, the lowest since May of 2008. While it’s a sign that layoffs are falling sharply, millions are still out of work or have given up looking. The last time the rate was this low, unemployment was at 5.4 percent. It’s now at 8.6 percent.
(via the Telegraph) James Murdoch admission brings him closer to facing charges: ‘James Murdoch’s admission that he received an email in 2008 warning him that hacking was “as bad as we feared” increases the risk he could be pursued under the US’s Racketeer Influenced and Corruption Organisations (RICO) Act.’ http://tgr.ph/ugNeVn
House Republicans to Vote on $1T Spending Bill, http://bloom.bg/u0oN4O
House Republicans are threatening to vote a one-trillion dollar spending bill through the chamber in an effort to force Democrats to either wrap up Congress’ work for the year, drop the so-called “millionaires tax” in the spending bill, or give ground on how to fund the separate payroll tax holiday and unemployment insurance benefits. If the short-term spending bill passes the vote Thursday, it will mostly likely ensure all three victories for the Republicans, since the House will recess and the Democrats will be forced to accept the GOP measures already proposed before deadlines set in.
Herman Cain’s Cabinet dream: DOD, http://politi.co/rYJ6ka
Herman Cain, the same presidential candidate who stated he would never need to know the name of the leader of “Ubeki-beki-beki-beki-stan-stan” and wasn’t sure if China had nuclear weapons, said that he would like to become the head of the Department of Defense. In an interview with Barbara Walters, who chose Herman Cain as one of the “10 Most Fascinating People” of the year, Walters asked Cain what Cabinet position he would like. After his shocking answer, Walters reminded him that he had some difficulties in the past with foreign policy knowledge. Cain responded with, “Yes, but I have been doing my homework ever since that difficulty.”
Death Sentences Drop To Historic Lows In 2011, http://n.pr/rAJ3W8
Death sentences are at an all-time low this year. For the first time in more than three decades, judges and juries sent fewer than 100 people to death row in 2011. 78 people were given capital sentences, and 43 inmates were executed; this brings the total to almost half as many as 10 years ago. A few months ago at a Republican presidential debate, the audience applauded when it was announced that Texas had executed 234 people in recent years. This gave the impression that Americans support capital punishment. “When I saw the reaction [at] the debate, I thought, ‘This is not what I’m seeing about the death penalty around the country,’”says Richard Dieter, executive director of the nonpartisan Death Penalty Information Center, which collects statistics on capital punishment.
Google to create rival to Apple’s Siri voice control – named after voice of Starship Enterprise, http://bit.ly/v3z7WE
Earlier this year Apple released a voice control technology called Siri as a ‘digital personal assistant.’ Now Google is planning to release a Siri rival called Majel after Majel Barrett-Roddenberry, the the voice of the Starship Enterprise in “Star Trek.” It is rumored that a January or February release is probable.
Andrew Rosenthal talks about “The Attorney General and Voting Rights,” http://nyti.ms/vUdvN8
Senator Daylin Leach tells “The Real Reason for a Voter’s Photo ID,” http://huff.to/tzOrma
E.J. Dionne Jr. thinks “Jon Huntsman, trying to thread a political needle,” http://wapo.st/rYPJOX
The Chicago Tribune says “Stop cheating Social Security with payroll-tax cut,” http://trib.in/soupMO
Royal wedding tops Google’s Zeitgeist 2011 search list, http://bbc.in/tQhXZG
The Artist, Game of Thrones, The Descendants: List of Golden Globe Nominations 2012, http://bit.ly/sF0jOa
Done Deal! Howard Stern Is Newest Judge on America’s Got Talent, http://eonli.ne/uE8PPh
Live at X Factor: Who’s Laughing at Simon Cowell? Who Wants to Be on Family Guy? http://eonli.ne/v38DUk