2014’s World Cup may be only just over, but the politics of the 2018 World Cup are already a subject of discussion. Over at The Daily Beast, Tunku Varadarajan suggests that a genuine way to punish Vladimir Putin for MH17 (and whatever else) would be to take the World Cup away from Russia. 

How does one punish the autocratic, omnipotent president of a quasi-superpower? It is much harder to do so than to spank the piddling ruler of a smallish rogue state, but options exist. Putin believes that a World Cup in Russia can be sold to his people as an endorsement of his rule. Why should the world become an accomplice in a dictator’s Ponzi scheme of pride? As he preened for the cameras at the World Cup finalin Rio de Janeiro on July 13, it was clear that Putin regards Russia’s staging of the cup’s next edition asa propaganda godsend, a global vote for his achievements. Imagine his consternation if he were prevented from putting on such a show. 

Not that the original choice to award Russia the 2018 slot (or Qatar the 2022) wasn’t already widely criticized based on allegations of kickbacks and vote-buying.
Photo via Getty.

2014’s World Cup may be only just over, but the politics of the 2018 World Cup are already a subject of discussion. Over at The Daily Beast, Tunku Varadarajan suggests that a genuine way to punish Vladimir Putin for MH17 (and whatever else) would be to take the World Cup away from Russia. 

How does one punish the autocratic, omnipotent president of a quasi-superpower? It is much harder to do so than to spank the piddling ruler of a smallish rogue state, but options exist. Putin believes that a World Cup in Russia can be sold to his people as an endorsement of his rule. Why should the world become an accomplice in a dictator’s Ponzi scheme of pride? As he preened for the cameras at the World Cup finalin Rio de Janeiro on July 13, it was clear that Putin regards Russia’s staging of the cup’s next edition asa propaganda godsend, a global vote for his achievements. Imagine his consternation if he were prevented from putting on such a show. 

Not that the original choice to award Russia the 2018 slot (or Qatar the 2022) wasn’t already widely criticized based on allegations of kickbacks and vote-buying.

Photo via Getty.

This Week in War. A Friday round-up of what happened and what’s been written in the world of war and military/security affairs this week. It’s a mix of news reports, policy briefs, blog posts and longform journalism.
A passenger jet, Malaysian Airlines Flight 17 from the Netherlands to Malaysia, was shot down over eastern Ukraine yesterday. Most of the answers are still forthcoming on this one, but none of nearly 300 passengers on board are thought to have survived. 
Who shot it down? Ukraine itself has denied involvement or capability and several signs seem to point to the pro-Russian separatists. 
Separatists have agreed to allow international investigators access to the crash site. 
Earlier this week, Ukraine accused Russia of shooting down a Ukrainian fighter jet in its own airspace. 
Israel launched a new phase of Operation Protective Edge: a ground invasion. According to Gaza’s health ministry, 24 Palestinians have been killed since Thursday night and more than 200 injured. Israel is claiming 14 of those it killed were terrorists and has lost one soldier. 
Netanyahu has said Israel is prepared to “significantly widen" the offensive. 
Inside Gaza’s tunnels — which have been a primary stated target of Israeli forces over the past three weeks.
Earlier in Gaza, a strike from a naval ship killed four Palestinian boys playing on a beach.
Three Israelis were indicted in the revenge killing of 16-year-old Mohammad Abu Khdeir.
Parisian police are considering a ban on pro-Palestine demonstrations.
14 Tunisian soldiers have been killed in a militant attack near the Algerian border. 
Libyan militant groups battling for control of the Tripoli airport have agreed to a ceasefire. 
In the Central African Republic, it’s worse than we thought.
Assad begins his third term as Syria’s president. 
Kuwaiti protesters demanding the release of an opposition leader and the purging of corrupt judges were met with tear gas over the weekend.
Anti-terrorism laws in Gulf states are being deployed against dissent and opposition, not militancy.
Tribesmen bombed Yemen’s main oil export pipeline on Saturday.
After a Houthi takeover of the Yemeni city of Amran last week, tens of thousands have fled the city.
Intelligence is linking Saudi chemist turned Al Qaeda bombmaker Ibrahim Hassan al-Asiri to ISIS and the Nusra Front.
Saudi Arabia is positioned in the middle of extremism — from Yemen on one side and Iraq on the other.
A Saudi rights lawyer has been jailed for 15 years for “inciting public opinion” and “undermining judicial authorities.”
Qatar is planning an $11bn deal to buy Apache helicopters and Patriot missiles from the US.
A suicide bombing in an Afghan market on Tuesday killed at least 89 people — the worst insurgent attack since 2001.
Kabul airport came under attack by militants on Thursday.
Afghanistan has jailed a Pakistani journalist, detaining him while reportedly on his way to interview Taliban sources. He was originally accused of spying, but is now charged with illegal entry into the country.
The outgoing top commander in Afghanistan, General Joseph Dunford, is expressing concern about the approach to the drawdown.
The widow of the first assassinated Iranian nuclear scientists speaks about her husband’s fears and death, and about meeting with his assassin. 
Protests and violent clashes continue in Cambodia over a disputed election. Eight members of the opposition in parliament have been arrested on charges of inciting insurrection. 
A Dutch court ruled that the government bore responsibility for the deaths of 300 of the victims of the Srebrenica massacre in Bosnia in 1995, owing to failures by Dutch peacekeepers. 
What are the aircraft carrying out 21st century aerial reconnaissance?
Alan Rusbridger interviews Edward Snowden.
A bill presented in Australian parliament this week could mean that journalists face jail over intelligence leaks.
The US plans to transfer six low-level Guantánamo detainees to Uruguay, possibly next month. 
A US Navy nurse has refused to force-feed prisoners in Guantánamo.
The Guardian looks into hunger strikes carried out by the non-Afghan detainees that the US continues to hold, largely under cover of secrecy, at Bagram.
Blackwater employees testified against former colleagues in the trial over the 2007 Nisour Square shooting. 
And some helpful suggestions for naming the latest operation in Iraq (Operation Shiite Storm, anyone?). You get to pick your favorite.
Photo: Donetsk, Ukraine. A section of the miles-long wreckage of MH17 smolders yesterday. Credit: ITAR-TASS/Barcroft Media.

This Week in War. A Friday round-up of what happened and what’s been written in the world of war and military/security affairs this week. It’s a mix of news reports, policy briefs, blog posts and longform journalism.

Photo: Donetsk, Ukraine. A section of the miles-long wreckage of MH17 smolders yesterday. Credit: ITAR-TASS/Barcroft Media.


The Political Notebook turned 4 today!

Just got this in an email from Tumblr.
What.
How.

The Political Notebook turned 4 today!

Just got this in an email from Tumblr.

What.

How.

Most Americans who follow soccer now wouldn’t quibble with the idea that the United States will win – or at least play in – a World Cup final in our lifetime. That would have been a preposterous idea 20 years ago. Now it’s a good pub argument.

Andrew Das — NYT sports editor.

America’s love of this year’s World Cup — because for once we were the underdog. 

This Week in War. A Friday round-up of what happened and what’s been written in the world of war and military/security affairs this week. It’s a mix of news reports, policy briefs, blog posts and longform journalism. Subscribe here to receive this round-up by email.
Fighting continues in Ukraine, where the army has retaken areas of Donetsk but separatists continue to battle it out — most recently over the airport.
Ukrainian rebels carried out a swift, old-school version of justice in Slovyansk, as documents they left behind in their flight show. 
Amnesty International reports on graphic evidence collected of torture targeting, among others, protesters and journalists in Ukraine over the last three months, as well as abductions.
A dispatch from Rwanda — where last week they celebrated the anniversary of Tutsis occupying Kigali and bringing an end to the 100 days of genocide. 
Amnesty International says South Sudan is “locked in a cycle of violence.”
In the Congo, a major faction of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda seems like it might be ready to disarm.
President Obama has offered to broker a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas — mean while 98 Palestinians have reportedly been killed in Israeli attacks. 
On Israeli right-wing youth extremism and the awful killing of Mohammed Abu Khdeir.
Italian-Swedish diplomat Staffan De Mistura will replace Lakhdar Brahimi as the UN’s Syria envoy and point man on the ongoing conflict.
ISIS has taken control of an old chemical weapons facility in Muthanna. The US is downplaying the danger, saying the facility contained no intact weapons.
A new ISIS revenue stream: oil smuggling.
Matthieu Aikins points out in the New York Times that the best allies against ISIS are other Sunni Islamists. 
The death toll rises among Iraqi Shi’ites recruited to battle ISIS.
Iran delivered three attack planes to Iraq. 
After meeting with Shia opposition in Bahrain, American diplomat Tom Malinowski was expelled by the government.
The number of civilian deaths in Afghanistan in the first six months of 2014 went up by a quarter from last year’s levels. 
The Afghan Taliban has banned polio vaccination teams from southern Helmand province. 
Brinksmanship between Afghan presidential hopefuls.
Pakistan’s anti-militant offensive has forced more than 700,000 people to flee their homes. 
In Myanmar, four journalists and the head of a newspaper were sentenced to a decade in prison and hard labor for reporting on a secret government factory designed to produce chemical weapons.
An obituary for David Truong, an anti-Vietnam war activist whose wiretapping and conviction on espionage charges eventually lead to the passage of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
A new way of war — the purposeful targeting of children.
On Thursday, Germany demanded that the top US spy in Berlin leave the country over new allegations of American espionage.
BNP Paribas SA, France’s largest bank, pleaded guilty in US federal court to violating sanctions by processing $9 billion worth of banned transactions involving Sudan, Cuba and Iran between 2004 and 2012.
The Intercept reports on surveillance of Muslim-American leaders in the US.
Matthew Olsen, director of the National Counterterrorism Center for the past three years, is stepping down from his position. 
The TSA’s new focus: electronics.
New charges are expected against Ahmed Abu Khattala, suspected ringleader of the Benghazi attacks.
The Marine Corps is expanding the offer of infantry training to more women.
A new “burn pit” registry has been created to log the names of 11,000 veterans and troops possibly sickened by exposure to open air burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Small self-promotion: I wrote a piece for Foreign Policy last week on the practice of barrel bombing from Sudan to Syria and now Iraq.
Bonus war photo: Ukrainian soldiers take up a position in a sunflower field.  
Photo: Gaza City. Palestinians search amid the rubble of an overnight Israeli strike. Khalil Hamra/AP 
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Photo: Gaza City. Palestinians search amid the rubble of an overnight Israeli strike. Khalil Hamra/AP 

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When it was bad, you knew it could have been worse. When it got worse, you knew it could have been terrible. When it got terrible, you knew there was hope left, just a thread of it, but something to hold on to. You knew those things because he was there. If you watched the last two minutes in a heart-imploding frenzy, urging the U.S. to get forward and score the tying goal, the life you felt was the gift he gave you, because without him the match would have been over long before.

I don’t care that the U.S. lost. He goes into the lore. When the aged DeAndre Yedlin is hoisting the World Cup in 2026, Tim Howard is the background, in the same way that Brian McBride’s bloody face is the background and Landon Donovan’s goal against Algeria is the background. He matters to American soccer forever because of this match. We lost, but he still saved us.
The great thing about Grantland’s sendoff for Tim Howard and the USMNT is how it manages to be both over the top and right on point at the same time.
The camera wobbles and the image pixelates as the cameraman tilts upward to catch the Syrian military helicopter drop its payload. The video, which has been viewed more than 76,000 times, follows the barrel bombs’ tumbling descent, the roar of their fall growing louder. The bombs hit their targets in a closely-packed urban area with an enormous crash, sending a huge plume of dark gray and white smoke, dust, and debris rising up as the building gives way. The video, reportedly from the Damascus suburb of Daraya, was uploaded by anti-government media activists from Syria in February. The accompanying video description refers to the weapons as barrel bombs — and ordnance tumbling from a Russian Hip helicopter, with visible fins, is likely just that. Similar to many of the videos available online of these bombings, the precise details of the attack in question, like the number of dead and wounded, are not known.
I have a piece up at Foreign Policy looking at the practice of barrel bombing — from Sudan to Syria, and now Iraq, too.
It’s not that Tim Howard and the US defense won’t be key to keeping the USA in contention, or that the game might not be turned by the opportunistic zeal of Dempsey up front, but for the US to progress you get the feeling it’s going to involve a successful gut check: Beckerman, Bradley, Jones.
Analyzing the critical nature of the midfield trio — Beckerman, Bradley and Jones — for the upcoming knockout match against Belgium on Tuesday. Interesting rethink of Bradley’s much-scrutinized performance in the past three matches.
evanfleischer:

"One the day the war will be over and I can return to my poem."
(via.)

evanfleischer:

"One the day the war will be over and I can return to my poem."

(via.)

This Week in War. A Friday round-up of what happened and what’s been written in the world of war and military/security affairs this week. It’s a mix of news reports, policy briefs, blog posts and longform journalism. Subscribe here to receive this round-up by email.
Separatist rebels in Ukraine agreed to a ceasefire — and then broke it by shooting down an Mi-8 helicopter over Slovyansk. 
Separatists are also distributing pro-Putin rap songs. 
The UN estimates that 423 people have been killed in eastern Ukraine between April 15 and June 23. 
More than 14,000 refugees have crossed the border into Russia. 
Mali is urging a more aggressive UN mission.
Egypt convicted three Al Jazeera journalists of conspiring with the Muslim Brotherhood to produce false broadcasts. Each was sentenced to at least seven years. 
Four bombs exploded in Cairo metro stations, causing only a few injuries.
Gaza’s unemployed graduates. 
Human Rights Watch says that ISIS has been recruiting Syrian children to their fight with the promise of a free education, and has found evidence that more moderate rebel groups like the Free Syrian Army have used children as well.
The Organization for the Prevention of Chemical Weapons has announced that Syria finally shipped the last of its known chemical weapons out of the country — although the OPCW says it has not completed the verification work necessary to declare Syria free of the weapons.
Israel launched rocket attacks against Syria in retaliation for the death of an Israeli teen in Golan Heights.
The three Israeli teens have been missing for two weeks now, and the resulting crackdown and tensions have been the most serious in a decade. 
Al Qaeda militants attacked Yemeni army base, airport and nearby agricultural plant, killing six soldiers and a civilian.
Syrian warplanes launched airstrikes inside Iraq.
Iraqi PM Nouri Al-Maliki rejected calls for the formation of some sort of emergency government. 
Iran is supplying Iraq with military equipment and more in the fight against ISIS as well as directing surveillance drones from an airfield in Baghdad.
Rania Abouzeid on the Syrian roots of Iraq’s current crisis. 
More than four dozen Iraqis will travel to Washington in the coming months to testify against Blackwater in the killing of 17 Iraqis in September 2007.
A week of fighting between Afghan forces and militants in the south has left more than 100 dead. 
Afghan presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah has released tapes he says provide evidence of election fraud. The White House has called for an impartial review of all fraud claims. 
Why Pakistan’s offensive against militants will fall short of its purpose. 
Internal Pakistani refugees who have fled a government offensive in Waziristan protested food shortages.
Canada-based cleric Tahirul Qadri is returning to Pakistan with the promise to lead a nonviolent revolution.
Sgt. Ryan Pitts will receive the Medal of Honor for his actions in the costly battle of Wanat, which killed nine US soldiers and sparked investigations. 
A bipartisan panel of former military and intelligence officials concluded that the targeted killing and armed drone program sets a dangerous precedent for endless war.
More than 400 large US military drones have crashed since 2001.
The FISA court has renewed the government’s application to continue collecting bulk telephone metadata — an approval which expires again in September. 
Guantánamo Bay prisoner Abd al Hadi al Iraqi has requested a civilian lawyer. 
On Tuesday a federal judge in Oregon declared the no-fly list unconstitutional because the Americans placed on it have no way to contest the inclusion.
A New York Times interactive on the 100-year legacy of the First World War. 

Photo: Tuz Kurmatu, Iraq. Iraqi forces patrol a checkpoint near ISIS forces. Karim Sahib/AFP/Getty/
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This Week in War
. A Friday round-up of what happened and what’s been written in the world of war and military/security affairs this week. It’s a mix of news reports, policy briefs, blog posts and longform journalism. Subscribe here to receive this round-up by email.

Photo: Tuz Kurmatu, Iraq. Iraqi forces patrol a checkpoint near ISIS forces. Karim Sahib/AFP/Getty/

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In a world where quantities as varied as footsteps and mouse clicks can be measured with scientific precision, soccer is a land where time remains a mirage.
The NYT explains to American fans why that 5 minutes and 28 seconds of stoppage time were added to That Match with Portugal on Sunday.
This Week in War. A Friday round-up of what happened and what’s been written in the world of war and military/security affairs this week. It’s a mix of news reports, policy briefs, blog posts and longform journalism. Subscribe here to receive this round-up by email.
The number of people displaced by violent conflict at the end of 2013 exceeded 51 million, the highest level of displacement by war since World War II. Half of the displaced are children.
The US captured Ahmed Abu Khattala, the man suspected of leading the 2012 attacks on the US embassy in Benghazi. He will face charges in federal criminal court. 
The New York Times reports he is “talking freely” with interrogators aboard the USS New York.
Irish journalist Mary Fitzgerald obtained an interview with Abu Khattala back in April. 
A car bomb killed 34 and wounded 50 Friday morning in Hama province in Syria. A coalition of Islamist rebels have claimed responsibility.
The number of Syrian refugees in Turkey has exceeded 1 million. 
A drone strike in Yemen killed all five passengers in a car carrying suspected Al Qaeda militants. 
The US will send up to 300 US military advisers to Iraq. 
ISIS and Iraqi forces are engaged in battles for the Baiji oil refinery and the Tal Afar airport. 
UNICEF upgraded Iraq to a level 3 humanitarian disaster with an estimated 1.5 million people displaced.
Reporters revisit their most memorable moments from reporting the (second) Iraq war.
In search of 3 missing teenagers, Israel has launched on of its most aggressive anti-Hamas campaigns in the last decade — deploying three more combat brigades to the West Bank, detaining roughly 240 Palestinians in pre-dawn raids, arresting political leaders, confiscating money and shutting down radio stations.
During morning raids today, Israeli forces clashed with Palestinians, and killed a 15-year-old.
Former Turkish president and army chief, General Kenan Evren, has been convicted and sentenced to life in prison for his leadership of a costly 1980 coup.
Iran and world powers have begun drafting a nuclear deal. 
Iran handed down prison sentences to a group of tech bloggers — or “enemy cyber activists.”
Afghan presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah demanded a halt to the vote count in the runoff election, claiming widespread fraud.
Cpl William “Kyle” Carpenter received the Medal of Honor for saving a fellow Marine from a grenade blast in Afghanistan.
Human Rights Watch says that Afghan journalists have been betrayed through NSA surveillance, endangered by their reporting connections to militants and insurgents.
Tens of thousands of people are fleeing Pakistan’s northwest tribal regions in the face of a government offensive. 
NATO says that Russia has resumed military buildup on the Ukrainian border. 
According to the UN, 356 people have been known to be killed in Ukraine since mid-April. Seven soldiers have been killed since Thursday.
Gazprom cuts Russia’s natural gas supply to Ukraine in a pricing dispute complicated by regional political divides. 
Pro-Russian rebels refuse to surrender in the face of a Ukrainian ultimatum, prompting Ukrainian attacks on eastern cities.
The rise of militarized NGOs.
Finland shows greater interest in joining NATO after Russian encroachment in Ukraine.
European countries like France continue to sell arms to Russia, despite their condemnations of actions in Ukraine. 
Russia adds a new attack submarine to its fleet — a nuclear-powered behemoth that has been twenty years in the making.
Abd el Hadi al Iraqi, an Iraqi Guantánamo prisoner who has been in prison since 2007, appeared in court on war crimes charges.
Lawyers for detainee Abu Wael Dhiab have entered video evidence of his force-feedings in a lawsuit filed on his behalf. 
A federal appeals court overturned a lower court ruling from January that a criminal defense attorney could access classified information under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. 
The Pentagon’s top war crimes prosecutor has said that the detainees controversially swapped for Bowe Bergdahl could not have been successfully prosecuted.  
This week marked a year since the untimely death of journalist Michael Hastings. His almost finished novel, The Last Magazine, was posthumously published.  
Photo: Salahuddin province, Iraq. An image posted to the website Welayat Salahuddin shows members of ISIS brandishing flags after seizing an army checkpoint. 
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Photo: Salahuddin province, Iraq. An image posted to the website Welayat Salahuddin shows members of ISIS brandishing flags after seizing an army checkpoint. 

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The cost of a bullet for an AK47 assault rifle has tripled to 3,000 Iraqi dinars, or about $2. Kalashnikovs are almost impossible to buy from arms dealers though pistols can still be obtained at three times the price of a week ago. In the Shia holy city of Kerbala, south-east of Baghdad, the governor has asked volunteers to bring their own weapons to recruitment centres.
This Week in War. A Friday round-up of what happened and what’s been written in the world of war and military/security affairs this week. It’s a mix of news reports, policy briefs, blog posts and longform journalism. Subscribe here to receive this round-up by email.
Ukrainian forces have surrounded the key rebel-held city of Mariupol. 
Fighting in eastern Ukraine has created a humanitarian crisis — food shortage, no electricity/water/gas for the past week, and 270 dead in the last two months. 15,000 - 20,000 refugees from Slavyansk have arrived in a nearby city.
On Thursday, the interior minister claimed a column of Russian tanks had moved into eastern Ukraine and fought Ukrainian troops.
This morning, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) advanced into Diyala province, taking two new towns and executing civilians and army officers in the streets.
ISIS released a list of rules to govern behavior in the province of Nineveh — among the rules: women should not leave the house, no drugs/alcohol, no rival groups, and sharia law.
While ISIS advances on Baghdad, Iraq’s Kurds seized Kirkuk — their long-hoped-for capital city.
Four of the fourteen divisions of Iraq’s army have fled in front of the advancing militant force. US officials say the army had already shown signs of deterioration.
The US struggles to come up with a response to the crisis in Iraq. The UN Security Council held closed door talks about the crisis yesterday.
Photojournalist Kamaran Najm Ibrahim was killed near Kirkuk on Thursday.
What would NY look like if it endured the destruction of the Syrian conflict?
Former US ambassador to Syria urges increasing the supply of arms sent to moderate rebel groups. 
How one Syrian woman survived 700 days of siege in Homs.
The Democratic Republic of Congo and Rwanda have boosted troops at their shared border after two days of gunfire exchange.
The ICC prepares to put Congolese warlord Bosco Ntaganda on trial for war crimes. 
Iranian dissidents under Rouhani don’t see the promised improvements. 
Five US troops were killed by friendly fire in Arghandab province, Afghanistan, on Tuesday.
Afghanistan is facing inclusion on an international financial blacklist for its failures to pass anti-money-laundering legislation.
Insurgent attacks ramp up ahead of Afghanistan’s Saturday run-off election for president. 
The US drone strike program resumed — with 13 killed in northwestern Pakistan on Thursday.
Militants attacked Karachi airport on Sunday night and again on Tuesday — the Pakistani Taliban have claimed responsibility.
June 10 marked the 70th anniversary of the worst Nazi atrocity on French soil — the massacre of the town of Oradour-sur-Glane, where 642 people died. Oradour-sur-Glane was left as a ghost town to memorialize the atrocity and what humans are capable of doing to one another.
Bowe Bergdahl returned to the US this morning.
The Bergdahl swap upset has further complicated release of other Guantánamo detainees.
Al Gore on Edward Snowden: "What he revealed in the course of violating important laws included violations of the US constitution that were way more serious than the crimes he committed."
Former NSA chief General Hayden refers to Snowden as “he who must not be named.”
The FBI has opened a criminal investigation into the VA scandal.
And the CIA is on Twitter.
Photo: Karachi, Pakistan. Smoke rises from Jinnah International Airport after a militant assault Sunday night. Asif Hassan/AFP
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Photo: Karachi, Pakistan. Smoke rises from Jinnah International Airport after a militant assault Sunday night. Asif Hassan/AFP

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Just pointing out that Rep. Pete Sessions up there — who is apparently gunning to succeed Eric Cantor as majority leader — is also one of those two congressmen that did not manage to attend the official swearing in ceremony for the 112th Congress in 2011 (a Constitutional violation in favor of attending a fundraiser!). 
Image via TPM. 

Just pointing out that Rep. Pete Sessions up there — who is apparently gunning to succeed Eric Cantor as majority leader — is also one of those two congressmen that did not manage to attend the official swearing in ceremony for the 112th Congress in 2011 (a Constitutional violation in favor of attending a fundraiser!). 

Image via TPM

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