By Patricia Zengerle WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Congress on Wednesday overwhelmingly rejected President Barack Obama's veto of legislation allowing relatives of the victims of the Sept. 11 attacks to sue Saudi Arabia, the first veto override of his presidency, just four months before it ends. The House of Representatives voted 348-77 against the veto, hours after the Senate rejected it 97-1, meaning the "Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act" will become law. The vote was a blow to Obama as well as to Saudi Arabia, one of the United States' longest-standing allies in the Arab world, and some lawmakers who supported the override already plan to revisit the issue. Obama said he thought the Congress had made a mistake, reiterating his belief that the legislation set a dangerous precedent and indicating that he thought political considerations were behind the vote. "If you're perceived as voting against 9/11 families right before an election, not surprisingly, that's a hard vote for people to take. But it would have been the right thing to do," he said on CNN. Obama's 11 previous vetoes were all sustained. But this time almost all his strongest Democratic supporters in Congress joined Republicans to oppose him in one of their last actions before leaving Washington to campaign for the Nov. 8 election. "Overriding a presidential veto is something we don't take lightly, but it was important in this case that the families of the victims of 9/11 be allowed to pursue justice, even if that pursuit causes some diplomatic discomforts," Senator Charles Schumer, a top Senate Democrat, said in a statement. Schumer represents New York, site of the World Trade Center and home to many of the nearly 3,000 people killed in the 2001 attacks, survivors and families of victims. The law, known as JASTA, passed the House and Senate without objections earlier this year. Support was fueled by impatience in Congress with Saudi Arabia over its human rights record, promotion of a severe form of Islam tied to militancy and failure to do more to ease the international refugee crisis. The law grants an exception to the legal principle of sovereign immunity in cases of terrorism on U.S. soil, clearing the way for lawsuits seeking damages from the Saudi government. Riyadh has denied longstanding suspicions that it backed the hijackers who attacked the United States in 2001. Fifteen of the 19 hijackers were Saudi nationals. Family members had tied their last push for the bill to the 15th anniversary of the attacks this month, demonstrating outside the White House and Capitol. On Wednesday, two fire trucks displayed a giant U.S. flag outside the Senate. "We rejoice in this triumph and look forward to our day in court and a time when we may finally get more answers regarding who was truly behind the attacks," Terry Strada, whose husband died in the attacks, said in a statement. RISK TO TROOPS? Obama argued that JASTA could expose U.S. companies, troops and officials to lawsuits if other countries passed reciprocal legislation, and may anger important allies. He called Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid and wrote a letter to him explaining that he strongly believed enacting JASTA into law would be detrimental to U.S. interests. Reid became the only senator to side with Obama. Some lawmakers said the White House, which has a history of poor relations with Congress, had waited too long to fight the bill. The Sept. 11 families have received more than $7 billion, but bill backers said their intention was to allow lawsuits to punish any government that backs terrorism on U.S. soil. "This bill was carefully negotiated over more than six years," Representative Jerrold Nadler, another New York Democrat, told the House. The issue, however, may not be finished. At least 28 senators signed a letter to JASTA's sponsors, Schumer and Republican Senator John Cornyn, asking that they work with them to mitigate any potential unintended national security and foreign policy consequences. The Saudi government financed an extensive lobbying campaign against the legislation. U.S. corporations including General Electric Co and Dow Chemical Co also opposed it, as did the European Union and other U.S. allies. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter and General Joseph Dunford, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, opposed the bill and CIA Director John Brennan said JASTA had "grave implications" for national security. Democratic Senator Tim Kaine, Hillary Clinton's vice presidential running mate, and Bernie Sanders, an independent and former Democratic White House contender, did not vote. Override opponents in the House included Representative Mac Thornberry, Republican chairman of the Armed Services committee, and Adam Smith, its ranking Democrat, citing concern about U.S. forces overseas. (Additional reporting by Richard Cowan and Jonathan Landay in Washington, and Roberta Rampton aboard Air Force One; editing by Marguerita Choy, Leslie Adler and G Crosse)
- Yahoo News
Over the past week, a growing number of Republicans began sounding the alarm about the number and content of executive orders being issued by President Joe Biden.
- The Independent
Jill Biden spent her first week as First Lady reshaping the role. Melania Trump spent hers isolated in a tower
New first lady signals she will be an active and constant presence in the White House - drawing stark contrasts to her predecessor
- The Telegraph
A doctor with terminal cancer killed a female pediatrician and then himself after taking hostages at a children's clinic in Austin, Texas. Dr Bharat Narumanchi held hostages in a five-hour siege before killing Dr Katherine Lindley Dodson. Narumanchi had applied for a volunteer position at the clinic a week ago and was declined. He later came back carrying a pistol, a shotgun and two duffel bags. Police spokesman Jeff Greenwalt said Narumanchi had recently been given "weeks to live" after a cancer diagnosis. He said: "The case as far as who did this is closed. We know who did it. And we know that there's no longer a threat to the public. But we really, really want to answer the question of why." Dr Lindley Dodson, 43, was beloved by patients and their families. Karen Vladeck, whose two children were among her patients, told the Austin American-Statesman: "You saw her at your worst when your kid was sick, and she just always had a smile on her face. "She made you feel like you were the only parent there, even though there was a line of kids waiting." During the siege a SWAT team used a megaphone to communicate with the armed doctor. A hostage negotiator shouted: "Your life is very important to me. And I know life is very important to you. "You don't deserve to go through this. For all you have done for others. That is why I want to help you work through this. You have saved a lot of lives." Police first sent in a robot and then officers went into the medical office where they found two bodies. They did not comment on how the two doctors died. A police spokesman said: "The SWAT situation has ended. Two subjects have been located and were pronounced deceased."
- Associated Press
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on Wednesday criticized Iran's hard-liner dominated judiciary over last week's prosecution of the countrys telecommunications minister. Mohammad Javad Azari Jahromi was released on bail after he was summoned for prosecution. Judiciary officials cited his refusal to block Instagram and impose limitations on the bandwidth of other foreign social media and messaging systems.
- Yahoo News
Former President Donald Trump’s “big lie” about a stolen election may have been discredited over and over in the courts, and disgraced by the attack on the U.S. Capitol, but the corrosive effect of his dishonesty will linger on, complicating efforts to strengthen American elections.
- Yahoo News
“By signing this order, President Biden indicates that he’s more interested in the views of the citizens of Paris than in the jobs of the citizens of Pittsburgh,” Cruz said.
- Associated Press
A group of U.N experts has criticized Sri Lanka's requirement that those who die of COVID-19 be cremated, even it goes against a family's religious beliefs, and warned that decisions based on “discrimination and aggressive nationalism” could incite hatred and violence. The experts, who are part of the Special Procedures of the U.N Human Rights Council, said in a statement Monday that rule amounts to a human rights violation. “We deplore the implementation of such public health decisions based on discrimination, aggressive nationalism and ethnocentrism amounting to persecution of Muslims and other minorities in the country,” the experts said.
- FOX News Videos
Biden administration has system in place where reporters will not ask president tough questions: Media critic
Steve Krakauer, editor at Fourth Watch, says 'it shouldn't be contingent' on one reporter to ask Biden tough questions.
- The Independent
Grandmother ‘overjoyed’ to be outside after receiving Covid-19 vaccine killed in Portland vehicle attack
Police have not released a motive in the attack
Explainer: Why Trump's post-presidency perks, like a pension and office, are safe for the rest of his life
The impeachment proceeding against Donald Trump on a charge of inciting the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol has fueled speculation online that he could lose some of the benefits extended to former presidents. But according to legal experts, under the laws currently in effect, Trump will retain perks including a pension, office space and security detail even in the unlikely event that he is convicted by the Senate in its impeachment trial. Trump can thank a relatively obscure law, the Former Presidents Act.
President Obama's former speechwriter says he's "preemptively frustrated" with President Biden's effort to find unity with Republicans.What they're saying: Cody Keenan told Axios that Biden's messaging team has "struck all the right chords," but at some point "they're gonna have to answer questions like, 'Why didn't you achieve unity?' when there's an entire political party that's already acting to stop it."Get smarter, faster with the news CEOs, entrepreneurs and top politicians read. Sign up for Axios Newsletters here.Keenan spent 14 years writing for Obama, including working alongside Biden for eight of those years. He acknowledged being embittered by his own experience, especially after Sen. Mitch McConnell pledged to make his former boss a one-term president. * "Until the Republican Party steps up and tells their own voters what's really happening with the truth, it's going to be elusive," Keenan said. "It's not up to (President Biden) alone to deliver. He can't."Keenan helped Obama with the first volume of his memoir, "A Promised Land." He stopped working with the former president on New Year's Eve and has taken a full-time role at Fenway Strategies. The firm is run by another ex-Obama speechwriter — Jon Favreau — and presidential aide, Tommy Vietor. * "It just seemed like a natural spot after the book and the elections and, you know, [Obama] is not going to do a ton, especially with Biden in office," Keenan said.Keenan is also writing a book, titled "Grace," about the 10 days from the 2015 shooting at a historic Black church in Charleston, South Carolina, to the eulogy Obama delivered for Rev. Clementa Pinckney. * Obama ended by singing "Amazing Grace." * The title also nods to Keenan's newborn daughter, named Grace.Support safe, smart, sane journalism. Sign up for Axios Newsletters here.
- The Telegraph
Turkish state media accused former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her daughter Chelsea of "whitewashing terrorists" after they announced they were intending to produce a TV drama based on female Kurdish fighters in Syria. The series will be an adaptation of journalist Gayle Tzemach Lemmon’s 'The Daughters of Kobani: A Story of Rebellion, Courage, and Justice', a book based on interviews with members of Kurdish all-female brigades known as Women’s Protection Units (YPJ). Part of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG), they gained international attention for fighting against the Islamic State Group in northern Syria. The series will be produced by the production company HiddenLight, which was founded by Mrs Clinton and her daughter. "We created HiddenLight to celebrate heroes - sung and unsung alike - whose courage is too often overlooked, and we could not be more thrilled to bring this inspiring story to viewers around the world," said Mrs Clinton. Turkey takes a very different view of the YPG, which is an offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), an armed left-wing group that has fought a guerilla war with Turkey since 1984 over securing greater Kurdish rights. Turkey considers the entire YPG to be terrorists because of their links to the PKK, which was designated a terrorist organisation under Bill Clinton’s administration in 1997. The US designation does not apply to the YPG or YPJ, however. “In its more than 30-year terror campaign against Turkey, the PKK — listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the EU — has been responsible for the deaths of nearly 40,000 people, including, women, children and infants. The YPG is the PKK’s Syrian offshoot,” Turkey’s state-run Anadolu Agency said. The fighting between Turkey and the PKK has killed at least 40,000 across both sides of the conflict and both have repeatedly committed human rights violations.
- Associated Press
Authorities in Singapore have detained without trial a 16-year-old student who made detailed plans and preparations to carry out “terrorist attacks” on two mosques with a machete. The Singaporean teen was inspired by an Australian white supremacist who killed 51 worshippers at two mosques in New Zealand in 2019, the Internal Security Department said Wednesday. The teen detained in December was the youngest terror suspect to be held under the country's Internal Security Act, it added.
- CBS News
House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy's warning comes as some of his colleagues are organizing an effort to oust Representative Liz Cheney.
The U.S. State Department is reviewing a Trump administration determination that China has committed genocide by repressing Uighur Muslims in its Xinjiang region to make sure that it sticks, President Joe Biden's pick for U.N. ambassador said on Wednesday. "The State Department is reviewing that now because all of the procedures were not followed," Linda Thomas-Greenfield told the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made the move last week, one day before Biden took office, "after careful examination of the available facts," accusing the Chinese Communist Party of crimes against humanity targeting the Uighurs and other Muslim minorities.
- Architectural Digest
Let’s get loudOriginally Appeared on Architectural Digest
- The Independent
‘There appeared to be no remorse,’ says Calcasieu Parish sheriff Tony Mancus
"Our veterans, families and caregivers will benefit from the return of Joining Forces, and our nation will as well."
- Associated Press
Immigrant rights activists energized by a new Democratic administration and majorities on Capitol Hill are gearing up for a fresh political battle to push through a proposed bill from President Joe Biden that would open a pathway to citizenship for up to 11 million people. The multimillion-dollar #WeAreHome campaign was launched Monday by national groups including United We Dream and the United Farm Workers Foundation. “We are home,” a young woman's voice declares in the first video spot showing immigrants in essential jobs such as cleaning and health care.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the experience of the COVID-19 pandemic underlined the benefits of being part of the United Kingdom as he prepares to visit Scotland on Thursday to confront growing support for another independence referendum. The bonds holding together the United Kingdom have been severely strained over the last five years by Brexit, the government’s handling of the pandemic, and repeated calls by the Scottish National Party for a new referendum on independence. Ahead of his visit, Johnson said that Scotland as a part of the United Kingdom gained access to a coronavirus vaccine developed by the University of Oxford and they are being administered by their shared armed forces, who are creating 80 new vaccine centres in Scotland.