New year opens up with hot spots, and big changes in Washington

Sedona Chinn, Crier Staff


French troops in Mali Push to Take Back Rebel Territory

French troops have landed in Mali to help Malian and other African forces take back territory in Northern Mali presently controlled by Islamist rebels. 2,400 French soldiers and their equipment were airlifted with U.S. assistance to Mali earlier this January, after repeated air strikes failed to deter rebels. The French and African troops have retaken the airport at Gao and continued to push into rebel-controlled territory. The United States has increased assistance to provide aerial refueling for French forces. In retaliation, militants took dozens hostage at an internationally managed gas field in Algeria.

U.S. Military to Allow Women on Front Lines

The U.S. military will repeal a ban on women serving on the front line, opening thousands of combat roles to female service members. Last year, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit for discriminatory practices against the Pentagon. The decision to end the ban was based upon the recommendation of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and will be implemented fully in 2016. This announcement comes soon after “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” the ban on openly gay or lesbian service members, was reversed in 2011.

Kerry’s smooth senate confirmation

Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, former presidential candidate, is expected to be confirmed as secretary of state after his hearing in the Senate on Thursday. Kerry never sketched a framework or mission, but did explain, “more than ever, foreign policy is economic policy,” highlighting the importance of global markets and resources. The Washington Post reported that “Kerry’s nearly four-hour confirmation hearing covered his views on topics […] including the Middle East, China’s appetite for African energy and resources, North Korean gulags and his beloved Boston Red Sox.”

Clinton testifies in Senate for Benghazi attack

Secretary of state Hillary Clinton testified for six hours last week on the handling of the Benghazi attack that killed U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stephens and three other Americans on September 11. Controversy over the attack has ensued since Republicans accused U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice of misleading the public towards believing the deaths to be a result of sporadic protest, rather than a planned attack. After being questioned on the administrations handling of the attack, Clinton’s patience wore thin. She pounded her fist on the table and said, “What difference, at this point, does it make […] It is our job to figure out what happened and do everything we can to prevent it from ever happening again.”