NBC News disclosed the existence of a classified Justice Department memo authorizing the use of drone strikes to kill American citizens. The 16-page white paper argues that the president does not need to have clear evidence of an imminent attack on American citizens or interests in order to legally approve a strike, and that the targets of such strikes do not need to have been charged with a crime. “The threat posed by al-Qa’ida and its associated forces,” states the memo, “demands a broader concept of imminence.” At a confirmation hearing, the Senate Intelligence Committee questioned prospective CIA director John O. Brennan about the drone program. “What we need to do is optimize transparency,” said Brennan, “but at the same time, optimize secrecy.” Committee members noted that Brennan appeared nervous as he faced questions about torture. “You’re on your fourth glass of water,” said Richard Burr (R., N.C.). “I don’t want to be accused of waterboarding you.” A human rights NGO reported that 54 countries helped facilitate the CIA’s secret detention, rendition, and interrogation program, and U.S. military officials staged an exercise to prepare for a hypothetical mass migration to Guantánamo Bay. Authorities in Los Angeles considered using drones to locate Christopher Dorner, an ex-policeman wanted for killing two relatives of a former LAPD captain and shooting three officers. “I will bring unconventional and asymmetrical warfare to those in LAPD uniform,” wrote Dorner in a manifesto in which he accused the department of racism and excessive use of force. Police shot an elderly woman in a blue Toyota Tacoma they took to belong to Dorner, who drives a gray Nissan Titan. “To the credit of the officers involved,” said the victims’ attorney, “after the shooting they acted professionally.” Former officers revealed that London’s Metropolitan Police Service had stolen the identities of dead children to use as aliases in undercover operations. A policeman in Upper Gwynedd, Pennsylvania, shot himself in the foot. Doctors informed the family of Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez that they didn’t expect him to recover from cancer, and Pope Benedict XVI announced that he was abdicating as of February 28 for health reasons. “His resignation,” said Cardinal Timothy Dolan, “is but another sign of his great care for the church.”
Scientists unveiled the reconstructed face of Richard III after confirming that skeletal remains discovered beneath a parking lot in Leicester, England, belonged to the dead king. “He’s very handsome,” said a member of the Richard III Society. “It doesn’t look like the face of a tyrant.” A hacker broke into email accounts belonging to the family of George W. Bush and released images of paintings by Bush that depict him bathing. “Nothing untoward is shown,” wrote one art critic. “He is chaste and untouched even when alone.” The U.S. military began moving equipment out of Afghanistan and transferred command of U.S. and NATO forces there for the final time before a planned withdrawal in 2014. “Victory here,” said outgoing commander John Allen, “will never be marked by a parade.” The United Nations reported that bribes paid to Afghan public officials in 2012 amounted to twice the country’s domestic revenue for services. Syrians rioted over tent donations at a refugee camp in Jordan, and soldiers loyal to President Bashar al-Assad danced in an online video to Usher’s “Yeah!” An Egyptian court ordered the government to block access to YouTube for a month because the site was hosting the anti-Islam film trailer Innocence of Muslims. Barack Obama announced plans for his first presidential visit to Israel, and Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declared his intention to visit the Gaza Strip and outer space. The leader of the team that built the World Trade Center died, and the Pakistani government announced that it was constructing a $30 million amusement park in Abbottabad, the city where Osama bin Laden was assassinated.
The British House of Commons voted to legalize same-sex marriage, and the Boy Scouts of America delayed until May a decision on whether to lift its ban on gay members. Floyd Corkins, who pleaded guilty to charges related to an August shooting attack on the headquarters of the antigay Family Research Council in Washington, D.C., reportedly told investigators he had planned to smear chicken sandwiches on the faces of dying staff members. “They endorse Chick-fil-A,” said Corkins, “so I was going to use that as a statement.” A transgendered woman was arrested in Florida for illegally injecting silicone into men’s buttocks. CBS advised Grammy Awards attendees not to wear revealing clothing. “Please be sure the genital region is adequately covered,” wrote the station, “so that there is no visible ‘puffy’ bare skin.” The world’s most prolific streaker announced his retirement, and a San Francisco man was acquitted of public-indecency charges related to an attempt at urban nudism when he explained that what appeared to a witness to have been masturbation was in fact an attempt to hide scars on his stomach, and what appeared to have been lubricant was in fact eczema cream. “Mr. Sierra’s failed attempt at being a nudist,” said the man’s lawyer, “does not warrant lifetime registration as a sex offender.” An African American couple named Jason and Annelia Black sued Disneyland for discrimination after the White Rabbit refused to touch their children. Laysan albatross Wisdom, the world’s oldest bird, hatched a chick, and a former LAPD detective revealed that a cadaver dog named Buster may have solved the 1947 “Black Dahlia” murder of Elizabeth Short. “We have established as fact that the basement,” he said, “still smells of death.”
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