Archive for November 22nd, 2013

‘I’m really good at killing people’ – book claims Obama told aides

‘I’m really good at killing people’ – book claims Obama told aides

It seems that President Obama is very much aware of the effects of his drone campaign, as he reportedly told aides he’s “really good at killing people.”

The quote comes from a new book called “Double Down,” by journalists Mark Halperin and John Heilemann, which chronicles the inside story of the 2012 election. The Washington Post was the first outlet to expose the quote in its review of the book.

The White House has yet to comment on the alleged quote, but one of the president’s senior advisors, Dan Pfeiffer, rejected many of the book’s claims on ABC’s Sunday show “This Week.” The book also claims that Obama’s political team considered replacing Vice President Joe Biden with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the reelection campaign.

“The president is always frustrated about leaks,” Pfeiffer said. “I haven’t talked to him about this book. I haven’t read it. He hasn’t read it. But he hates leaks.”

Dan Pfeiffer.(Photo from user @pfeiffer44)

Dan Pfeiffer.(Photo from user @pfeiffer44)


The revelation of the quote comes as the administration’s drone campaign is placed under increasing scrutiny. Since taking office in 2008, and winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009, Obama has greatly expanded the use of drones and targeted killings in foreign nations. He oversaw the 2009 surge in Afghanistan, drone operations during NATO’s 2011 involvement in Libya, the May 2011 raid that killed Osama bin Laden, and the most recent strike that killed the Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud.

According to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism in London, the president has authorized 326 strikes in Pakistan alone. It also estimates that, since George W. Bush took office for his second term in 2004, the strikes have killed anywhere between 2,500 and 3,600 individuals, and that between 416 and 948 of those individuals were civilians.

The White House claims the number of civilians killed by drones is much lower than that, though it has declined to release its own number for national security reasons. The administration considers any “military-age males” within a strike zone to be combatants.

Civilian drone deaths came under the spotlight just recently in Washington, when a Pakistani school teacher and his family testified before Congress on the effects of the program on civilians. According to Amnesty International, the family’s grandmother was killed by a U.S. drone strike in 2012, along with 18 other civilians.

The use of drones also made national news when it was revealed that the machines killed 16-year-old American Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, the son of a radical preacher Anwar al-Awlaki, on September 30, 2011 in Yemen. The young man was killed two weeks after his father, and his family is still searching for answers as to why.

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Handcuffed NC teen ends up shot dead in backseat of cop car, police deny involvement

Handcuffed NC teen ends up shot dead in backseat of cop car, police deny involvement

 handcuffed 17-year-old North Carolina boy died of gunshot wounds in a Durham Police Department patrol car Tuesday morning, according to a 911 recording made public Wednesday.

Jesus Huerta was being transported to police headquarters on a trespassing charge by officer Samuel A.M. Duncan when, in the department’s parking lot, Duncan heard the shot from the backseat and jumped out of the car, leaving it to roll into a van with Huerta still inside, Durham police said.

In the recording of the 911 call, a police officer radioed emergency dispatchers just before 3 am EST Tuesday morning to report “shots fired” in the parking lot of the station. The dispatcher asked the calling officer if he was hurt, according to the recording. “I don’t believe so,” the officer said in response.

The officer is heard asking for medical assistance for a “gunshot wound. Approximately 18-year-old male, not breathing.”

Ahead of the released recording, later on the morning of Huerta’s death, Durham Police Chief Jose Lopez said his department didn’t know how the young man died, but said “based on the preliminary investigation, it does not appear that any Durham police officer fired a weapon during this incident.”

The Durham Police Department would not comment Wednesday on the 911 recording or answer further questions, citing an ongoing investigation.

Huerta’s family was notified of Jesus’ death early Tuesday morning, but they were told they will not yet be able to view his body, taken to the state medical examiner’s office. A spokesperson for the Department of Health and Human Services told WRAL there is no viewing room.


Jesus Huerta (2012 Durham County Sheriffs Office)

Jesus Huerta (2012 Durham County Sheriffs Office)


“(My mother) wants to see my brother, even through a glass window,” said Evelin Huerta, Jesus’ sister. “We don’t have any answers. We want to make sure it’s him because we still have that thought, the possibility that it’s not him, that it was a mistake.”

Huerta’s older siblings, Evelin and Raziel Huerta, said Wednesday Durham police had not directly told the family how Jesus died, though they question any insinuation that he killed himself.

“Wasn’t he handcuffed? Did they search him?” Raziel Huerta said, according to the News & Observer. “He didn’t have a gun. If there was a gun, I don’t know where it came from. Was it on the seat?”

The two older siblings, speaking to reporters in front of their family’s apartment in Durham Wednesday afternoon, said their mother, Sylvia Fernandez, wanted to call the police because Jesus had left against her wishes.

Jesus had been playing video games in the apartment living room before leaving, Raziel said. He then wanted to go out, but his mother said it was too late. The siblings said she was worried for his safety and wanted police to find him. She doesn’t speak English, so she asked Evelin to call the police.

“All of a sudden, he opened the door and left,” Raziel, 27, said. “My mom felt scared and called the police.”

A recording of the 911 call the daughter made for her mother indicates Jesus left the house because his mother had caught him using drugs. The unnamed caller in the recording also said they were worried because Jesus had once “tried to take his life.”

“One time, he wanted to jump from the window” because “he thinks his mother does not love him,” the caller said to the dispatcher. Though the family said Wednesday he had never tried to kill himself, according to WRAL.

Raziel said his brother once tried to jump from a first-story window at their apartment, but because he wanted to get out of the house, not as a suicide attempt.

“He was hanging out, trying to be cool. He had, like, a little swagger,” Raziel Huerta said. “He was not depressed.”

The family told WRAL police appeared at the apartment about ten minutes after the call to police, then another officer radioed saying Jesus was picked up two blocks away from his home. The Huertas said they don’t yet have more information on the trespassing charge Jesus faced.

“Where was he trespassing?” Raziel asked. “He was walking down the street. It’s a free country.”

The siblings said their mother called police to protect Jesus.

“She’s saying next time she is going to doubt picking up the phone and calling a police man,” Evelin Huerta said.

Raziel Huerta said his brother – a student at Riverside High School, where he was known as “Chewy” – was a normal teen who liked video games and expressed desire to be a firefighter or an attorney.

Duncan, who joined the department in 2012, has been placed on administrative leave with pay during the investigation by the State Bureau of Investigation, Lopez said. He said the Durham Police Department’s homicide unit and its professional standards division are also looking into the case.

McDonald’s to employees: Break your food in small pieces to feel full

McDonald’s to employees: Break your food in small pieces to feel full

McDonald’s is under fire once again, this time for suggesting employees break up their food into smaller pieces to get full and to sell personal belongings on eBay or Craigslist for cash.

These recommendations, along with others, were made public on Tuesday when the activist group Low Pay Is Not OK, which promotes higher wages for fast food workers, posted a YouTube video concerning the McResource employee website.

The McResource site is intended to help employees cope with stress, health, and financial issues. Among its proposals were lowering blood pressure by “singing along to your favorite songs,” “breaking food into pieces” so that you can get full on less of it, and taking at least two vacations a year. The latter may be difficult for those working two jobs to make ends meet, as a McDonald’s employee budget calculator was found to assume earlier this year

Additionally, the website recommended freeing up some cash by returning “unopened purchases” and “selling some of your unwanted possessions on eBay or Craigslist.”

At one point, the website even told employees to “quit complaining” because ten minutes of complaining raises stress hormone levels.

According to a statement given to NBC News, McDonald’s said these “rotating quick tips” were taken out of context by Low Pay Is Not OK, and that much of the website’s content is “based on credible outside experts and well-published advice.”

“This is an attempt by an outside organization to undermine a well-intended employee assistance resource website by taking isolated portions out of context,” the statement read.

The company also added that the content is produced by an independent company, which they will work with to make “any necessary adjustments to the information to make sure that it stays a trusted, accurate, and useful tool for employees who choose to use it.”

In October, Low Pay Is Not OK published a recording showing an employee calling the McResource site to ask for financial assistance. The recording made waves for showing hotline operators telling the woman to inquire about food pantries and enrolling in federal programs like food stamps and Medicaid.

A week before that recording was published, a study revealed that 52 percent of the families surviving on employment by fast food companies are registered in one or more public assistance programs. In comparison, 25 percent of the overall workforce is similarly enrolled in such programs.