As soon as a Senate hearing into the Secret Service prostitution scandal began, it was clear there would be no rehabilitation of the agency’s reputation.
In fact, by the time the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee session concluded, skeptical senators on both sides of the aisle had painted Director Mark Sullivan as a good administrator but one hopelessly naive about what his agents do away from home.
Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan testified Wednesday before a Senate committee, publicly apologizing for the first time for the Colombia prostitution scandal.
Of course, there is no proof that the scandal involving a dozen agents who allegedly patronized prostitutes, while advancing President Obama’s trip to Colombia, represents standard operating procedure.
But the senators also don’t believe it was a one-time fling.
“It is hard for many people, including me, I will admit, to believe that on one night in April 2012 in Cartagena, Colombia, 12 Secret Service agents there to protect the president suddenly and spontaneously did something they or other agents had never done before, which is gone out in groups of two, three or four to four different nightclubs or strip clubs, drink to excess, and then bring foreign national women back to their hotel rooms,” said Chairman Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.).
Questions reflected a persistent concern: Instead of an aberration, does Cartagena indicate a culture of loose living by agents on the road? Read More
After years of mortifying missteps, Yahoo Inc. finally has something to boast about: a multibillion-dollar windfall from a savvy investment in China.
Yahoo is selling half of its roughly 40 percent stake in Alibaba Group Holding Ltd., one of the most successful companies in China’s rapidly growing Internet market. The $7.1 billion price ensures that Yahoo will get a hefty return from its $1 billion investment in Alibaba in 2005.
The deal, coming a week after Yahoo’s CEO abruptly resigned over misstatements in his official biography, will provide more financial firepower for the latest regime trying to turn around the long-struggling Internet company. It came after more than two years of negotiations on how Yahoo will sell the stake.
Alibaba started out in 1999 as a business-to-business website linking factories in China to buyers around the world. It grew into a company that’s larger than Yahoo, with more than 25,000 employees working at a wide range of websites and online services.
Alibaba’s portfolio includes Taobao.com, China’s version of eBay, and TMall, which brand owners can use to sell directly to consumers. Alibaba also runs a search engine for shoppers and an online payment service.
Things have been going so well at Alibaba that it now accounts for a large portion of Yahoo’s earnings.
While Yahoo has profited from the Alibaba investment, Yahoo’s stock price has plunged by more than 55 percent since the company invested in Alibaba. Read More
An abandoned van containing a device with 600 pounds of explosives was found in Newry, Northern Ireland, near the border with the Republic of Ireland, police said Saturday.
The device, believed to be linked to dissident IRA groups opposed to the peace process, was “fully primed and ready for use,” police said.
The bomb, found late Thursday, was one of the biggest found in Northern Ireland, police said.
It could have caused “death and massive destruction” had it gone off, Chief Superintendent Alasdair Robinson told reporters in Ardmore.
“The device contained two blue barrels with 125kg of homemade explosives in each one, and a detonator — all the equipment which meant this device was ready to go,” he said.
“This was a very significant device — twice the size of the bomb which was left at Newry Courthouse two years ago. If this had exploded it would have caused devastation.
“To put it in perspective, anyone within 50 meters of this device would have been killed and anyone within 100 meters, seriously injured.”
The road leading to the border was closed within minutes after officers became aware of the suspicious vehicle, he said. A member of public raised the alert after driving past the abandoned van, he said. Read More
The United States ambassador, Ryan C. Crocker, and Afghanistan’s national security adviser, Rangin Spanta, completed the wording of the draft, which will now be sent to President Hamid Karzai and to the Afghan Parliament for review and approval before it is signed by the presidents of both countries, according to American and Afghan officials.
“We believe we have a final text which will be presented to the president and also presented to Parliament for final consultation and approval before the signature by the two presidents,” said an Afghan official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the official did not have permission to speak to the news media.
“It covers the broad spectrum of the existing, broad-based, comprehensive partnership between the two countries with the view towards sustaining that for at least another decade beyond the end of transition in 2014,” the official said.
The document outlines the two countries’ future relationship rather than specifying exact amounts of support or programs, but officials from both countries have said that they hope that it will send a signal to insurgents and other destabilizing forces here that the United States is not going to abandon Afghanistan as it did in the 1990s after the Soviets were driven out. Rather, the Americans will continue to support the country in many areas.
Negotiations on the document started more than nine months ago but were delayed repeatedly over the sensitive issues of night raids by American troops and the American operation of detention facilities.
Ultimately negotiators agreed to write detailed separate agreements on those two issues and signed a memorandum of understanding on the transfer of detention operations to the Afghan government in March. In April, they signed a companion memorandum handing final authority on night raids to Afghan security forces, who are now carrying out all raids unless American assistance is requested.
With those two issues resolved, the strategic partnership moved quickly to completion. The document promises American economic development support for Afghanistan and help in fields like agriculture and education, as well as security. It does not include any specific commitment of foreign aid because that amount must be authorized and appropriated by Congress and can not be committed by the executive branch. Read More