Obama calls on Congress to stop ‘farce’, end shutdown

Updated 06 October 2013
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Obama calls on Congress to stop ‘farce’, end shutdown

WASHINGTON: President Barack Obama on Saturday called on the lower chamber of Congress to “stop this farce” and end the US government shutdown by unconditionally approving a federal budget.
“Take that vote. Stop this farce. End this shutdown now,” Obama said in his weekly radio and video address.
The US government closed all but its essential operations earlier in the week when Republican lawmakers refused to approve money for government operations without first delaying or defunding the new health care law, commonly known as Obamacare.
The US Senate has already approved a budget, and “there are enough Republican and Democratic votes in the House of Representatives willing to do the same, and end this shutdown immediately,” Obama said.
“But the far right of the Republican Party won’t let Speaker John Boehner give that bill a yes-or-no vote.”
Obama said that he “won’t pay a ransom in exchange for reopening the government. And I certainly won’t pay a ransom in exchange for raising the debt ceiling.”
Obama is refusing to negotiate with Republicans over the budget issues until they pass a temporary bill to open the government and agree to raise the $16.7 trillion US statutory borrowing limit — without which Washington could default on its debts for the first time ever starting on October 17.
“For as reckless as a government shutdown is, an economic shutdown that comes with default would be dramatically worse,” Obama said.
Both the House and the Senate will convene rare Saturday sessions.
But some Republican pragmatists who have signaled they would vote to pass a fresh spending bill worried that such a resolution is no longer achievable.
“I think that ship has sailed,” congressman Michael Grimm said on Friday.
“We’re getting too close to the debt ceiling vote. It looks like the only thing that’s going to work right now is a dialogue.”
Boehner on Friday appeared to be equally frustrated. “This isn’t some damn game,” he said after a news report cited an unnamed official saying that the White House is benefiting from the shutdown.
“All we’re asking for is to sit down and have a discussion, reopen the government and bring fairness to the American people under ‘Obamacare,’” Boehner said.
Secretary of State John Kerry, traveling in Indonesia, warned Saturday the political standoff was “reckless” and threatened to weaken the US standing abroad.
“If it were prolonged, or repeated, people would begin to question the willingness of the United States to stay the course and its ability to,” Kerry told reporters at the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation forum on the Indonesian island of Bali.
“But that’s not the case and I don’t think it will be the case.”
Obama had been due to travel to Bali for an APEC leaders’ summit starting Monday, but canceled the trip — which would have also taken in Brunei, Malaysia and the Philippines — to deal with the government shutdown.
Kerry, who is filling in for Obama, made it clear that he believed that the Republicans blocking government spending were playing a dangerous game.
“I think it is reckless, personally, to even provide those moments where you have these risks that are exposed,” Kerry said, referring to areas of spending on global security hotspots that have been suspended because of the shutdown.
Kerry also insisted that Obama’s so-called strategic pivot to the Asia-Pacific had not been weakened by the president canceling his trip.
Meanwhile Kerry’s predecessor, former secretary of state and possible 2014 Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, decried the “scorched earth” tactics in the government shutdown.
“We watch what happens in Washington with a certain amount of bewilderment, even disgust,” she said late Friday in a speech at Hamilton College in the town of Clinton, in upstate New York.
“The rest of the world watches it closely. When we let partisanship override citizenship, when we fail to make progress on the challenges facing our country, our standing in the world suffers,” Clinton said.
The shutdown has forced hundreds of thousands of federal workers to stay home without pay, while monuments such as the Statue of Liberty have been barricaded and national parks closed.
Amid the acrimony over who is to blame, Democrats quietly acknowledged that the two sides had opened lines of communication, after an earlier White House meeting with Obama and top congressional leaders went nowhere.
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Police slam US actor, say he staged racist attack to boost career

Updated 22 February 2019
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Police slam US actor, say he staged racist attack to boost career

  • Jussie Smollett, the African-American actor who stars on Fox music industry drama ‘Empire,’ went from victim to suspect after he reported an assault late last month
  • Smollett accused of first sending himself a fake threatening letter and then staging an attack to tap into Americans’ anxieties over political and racial divisions

CHICAGO: An American TV actor was criminally charged Thursday for allegedly masterminding an elaborate “publicity stunt” that sought to exploit the “pain and anger of racism” with a staged assault on the streets of Chicago.

It was the latest twist in a weeks-long saga that has seen 36-year-old Jussie Smollett, the African-American actor who stars on Fox music industry drama “Empire,” go from victim to suspect after he reported an assault late last month.

An incredulous Chicago police chief accused Smollett of first sending himself a fake threatening letter and then staging an attack to tap into Americans’ anxieties over political and racial divisions, because he was allegedly “dissatisfied with his salary.”

In a sign of the national attention the case has drawn, President Donald Trump weighed in Thursday, taking issue with the fact Smollett claimed his assailants invoked the president’s “Make America Great Again” slogan along with racist slurs during the purported attack.

“‘Empire’ actor Jussie Smollett took advantage of the pain and anger of racism to promote his career,” Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson told an emotionally-charged news conference — during which he lashed out angrily at the actor for sullying the city’s image.

“Smollett paid $3,500 to stage this attack and drag Chicago’s reputation through the mud in the process,” he said. “This publicity stunt was a scar that Chicago didn’t earn and certainly didn’t deserve.”

Smollett turned himself in early Thursday morning, was arrested and charged with a felony count of disorderly conduct for filing a false police report, and was granted $100,000 bond.

He was freed from jail late in the afternoon, and said nothing to the throng of media. If convicted, he faces up to three years in prison.

His legal team pushed back hard later Thursday, claiming the police press conference had been prejudicial and “the presumption of innocence, a bedrock in the search for justice, was trampled upon.”

“Today we witnessed an organized law enforcement spectacle that has no place in the American legal system,” attorney Jack Prior told AFP in a statement.

“Mr. Smollett is a young man of impeccable character and integrity who fiercely and solemnly maintains his innocence and feels betrayed by a system that apparently wants to skip due process and proceed directly to sentencing.”

Smollett had claimed that two masked men beat him late at night in downtown Chicago, poured bleach on him and tied a rope around his neck — but police grew suspicious of his account after they failed to corroborate it.

Trump took aim at the actor for having tarnished his supporters, tweeting: “what about MAGA and the tens of millions of people you insulted with your racist and dangerous comments!?“

Meanwhile, Fox Entertainment and 20th Century Fox Television, which produce “Empire” and had stood by the actor, said “we understand the seriousness of this matter” and “are considering our options.”

Authorities said the two men who staged the attack with Smollett were brothers Ola and Abel Osundairo, who have both previously worked on “Empire,” and were acquaintances of the actor — while one provided him with drugs.

The brothers have cooperated with police since their arrest late last week and have not been charged with a crime.

Smollett allegedly first concocted a false threatening letter he had sent to himself — which is under a separate FBI investigation — and when that did not get enough attention, paid the brothers to have the assault staged.

Prosecutor Risa Lanier detailed an elaborate plot that Smollett allegedly orchestrated with exacting detail — telling the brothers when and how to attack him, including pointing out a street camera he assumed would capture the event, but was in fact pointing in a different direction.

The allegations were backed by a mountain of evidence, including a cashed check that Smollett wrote to pay for the stunt, authorities said.

Initial news of Smollett’s claims led to widespread condemnation and shock, and an outpouring of support from celebrities and politicians alike, including Democratic 2020 presidential candidates Cory Booker and Kamala Harris who denounced “an attempted modern day lynching.”

Trump initially described the alleged attack as “horrible.”

Since then, Smollett’s story has become a cautionary tale in an era where incomplete information is quickly spread via social media.

Opinion writers have complained about a rush to judgment, and politicians, celebrities and nonprofit groups have felt pressure to explain their initial reactions.

The president of the LGBT advocacy group Human Rights Campaign said the Smollett news was “both devastating and frustrating.”

“I want to ask everyone feeling angry, hurt and disappointed to channel that into productive activism — because there are thousands targeted by hate violence each year who need our help,” Chad Griffin tweeted.