Three men who posed no danger to the U.S. – a federal judge ordered them released back in 2008 – have finally left the notorious prison on a plane to Slovakia. Yusef Abbas, Hajiakbar Abdulghuper and Saidullah Khalik were held 12 years without trial. They and 19 other Uighurs were mistakenly captured in Afghanistan, brutally questioned and then held in Guantanamo limbo after the U.S. feared the men faced torture if returned to China.
The Presidential Daily Brief
It’s 2014 with a bang down under. As midnight rolls across the Earth, so, too, do the parties. OZY has looked back at 2013; tomorrow we examine what to expect in 2014. But for tonight, it’s all about the champagne and the celebration. Here’s to you and whoever and whatever you are toasting. And before you head out, check the slideshow links below to see how others ring in 2014 in colorful style.
The president of the International Olympic Committee has expressed his confidence that athletes and spectators will be safe at February’s Olympic Games in Sochi following two terrorist attacks in Volgograd. The blasts at the city’s train station and in a commuter trolleybus are believed to be the work of Islamist rebels seeking to end Russian rule in Chechnya and Dagestan. Vladimir Putin has increased security, and the police presence in Sochi is expected to be intense. Many, however, are concerned that the Volgograd bombings could be a precursor to a larger, bloodier attack.
The Aam Aadmi Party, or Common Man Party, staged a shocking election showing against the juggernauts of Indian politics, the dynastic Congress party and right-wing Bharatiya Janata Party. In the first-ever elections contested by the year-old party, the AAP took 28 out of 70 seats in the Assembly of New Delhi, India’s capital. The party has already delivered on an election promise to provide 700 liters of free water daily to households with a functional meter. Will the move open the floodgates to further change as national parliamentary elections inch closer in 2014?
Pentagon officials are encouraging Afghan President Hamid Karzai to approve a U.S. military presence in the country after 2014. Thus far, Karzai and other Afghan political leaders have resisted calls to extend the presence of American forces in the country. The Pentagon’s campaign continues despite polls indicating that the war in Afghanistan is the most unpopular in U.S. history — even less popular than the Vietnam War — with only 17 percent of Americans backing military action. Although Marine General Joseph Dunford seeks fewer than 13,000 troops to bolster Afghan forces, it seems Americans would prefer the 12-year ordeal to end.
Source: The Guardian
A large wave of economic migration across Europe is anticipated as EU restrictions on the movements of Romanians and Bulgarians ends on Jan. 1. The migration of Eastern Europeans is already controversial in places like Britain, where polls indicate that 72 percent would prefer to keep the EU restrictions in place. Elsewhere, the major 2014 legal switch involves drugs — specifically, legalizing the production and sale of previously banned narcotics including cannabis (U.S.), coca (Bolivia) and licensed synthetic drugs (New Zealand).
In 2013 we also lost inspiring artists and controversial figures. Actors Peter O’Toole and James Gandolfini, political mavericks Hugo Chavez and Margaret Thatcher, and authors Tom Clancy and Chinua Achebe left behind lives of accomplishment and global influence. But one doesn’t need to be a celebrity to make an impact. The Lives They Loved project launched by the New York Times, for example, invited readers to share photographs and anecdotes about friends and family members who made a difference in their lives.
Estimates say that billionaire Michael Bloomberg has spent at least $650 million on various causes since his election as New York City’s mayor in 2001. The Metropolitan Museum of Art snagged $30 million. Another $7 million went to gun control, $890,000 for feeding his staff, and about $23 million in various campaign donations — just to name a few. Bloomberg also invested $73 million in his 2001 campaign, more than four times what his opponent spent. After his term expires on Tuesday night, New Yorkers may reflect on the sweeping changes Bloomberg brought, but they didn’t come cheap.
In a modern-day equivalent of discovering Ötzi the Iceman, 22 negatives from one of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s polar expeditions have been found frozen in a block of Antarctic ice. A New Zealand photography conservation expert developed the negatives, which were found near a historic hut used by explorers — and found startlingly clear images of Shackleton’s ship, crew and snowy days. Shackleton’s Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition took place from 1914-1917 and claimed the lives of three men, including the photographer who left these undeveloped negatives behind.
“Downton Abbey” depends on a very important plot point — the aristocratic Crawley family has no direct male heirs to pass on the family estate. This rule still applies to Britain’s dwindling landed gentry, but this could soon change for modern-day Lady Marys. A bill dubbed the “Downton Law” has been brought to the House of Lords proposing to allow first-born female aristocrats to inherit titles for the first time in British history. The proposed legislation comes after this year’s decision to change the laws of royal succession, so royal women can now directly inherit the throne.
Applebee’s has carved out a niche as one of America’s most popular restaurants for casual family dining and half-priced entrees, but the company’s Times Square franchise plans to go high dollar on New Year’s Eve. For $375, patrons will receive four hours of a premium bar, a DJ, dance floor, party favors and buffet access, featuring food by “some fairly sophisticated culinary people.” Partygoers aren’t even guaranteed the opportunity to see the ball drop in person, as it is “subject to NYPD approval.”
On “Black Monday,” the last NFL Monday of 2013, several major coaching spots opened up for the New Year. So far, five major NFL coaches have been fired, including Detroit Lions coach Jim Schwartz and the Washington team’s Mike Shanahan. This shake-up takes place every year, but some coaches may still not have total job security. Rumors are swirling about the Miami Dolphins, the New York Giants and several other NFL teams possibly making leadership changes in the near future.