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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

By Kathleen Hennessey and Christi Parsons, Tribune Washington Bureau

A Pentagon spokesman says defense officials “have no reason to doubt” the authenticity of a newly released video that appears to show the calm and peaceful hand-off of Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl by his Taliban captors to U.S. custody last weekend.

The 17-minute video, released to NBC News by what the network reported was a “known Taliban spokesman,” shows both sides quickly shaking hands before Bergdahl is handed over, patted down and helped into a U.S. helicopter for transport.

In a statement released Wednesday, Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Admiral John Kirby said the video showing the controversial handover was still being reviewed at the Pentagon.

“Regardless, we know the transfer was peaceful and successful, and our focus remains on getting Sergeant Bergdahl the care he needs,” Kirby said.

Bergdahl was released Saturday after five years of imprisonment and several months of negotiations. The Obama administration negotiated his freedom in exchange for the transfer to Qatar of five detainees from the detention center at Guantanamo Bay.

The swap has been criticized by Republicans who say the White House violated policy by releasing Guantanamo detainees without the required advanced notice to Congress.

The video opens with footage of the 28-year-old Bergdahl seated in a white truck, his head and face completely shaven, speaking with a man who at one point pats him on the chest.

Dressed in a white tunic with a blanket over his shoulders, Bergdahl blinks rapidly and wipes at his eyes as they wait for a helicopter to appear in the cloudy skies above.

The video then captures images of a U.S. helicopter coming into sight, circling and landing, and then of three men in dark clothing running out several yards to meet Bergdahl and the two men who accompany him.

One of Bergdahl’s escorts carries a white flag tied to a stick. Both escorts shake hands with the men before handing Bergdahl over to them. After leading Bergdahl back to the helicopter, the men pat him down.

The video then shows the helicopter disappearing into the sky, and closes with a superimposed message — misspelled and uncapitalized, but clear: “Don’ come back to afghanistan.”

Photo via AFP

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was on CNN Sunday morning with Jake Tapper on his State of the Union show. In part because Democratic reps, like Republican reps, going on Sunday shows is about this coming election, and in part because newscasters are not particularly deep or creative when it comes to talking about politics, Tapper decided to spend a lot of time trying to get Ocasio-Cortez to attack Joe Biden for their differences of political opinions. Newsflash: Ocasio-Cortez, progressive hero, co-author of the ambitious Green New Deal environmental package, and Vice President Joe Biden aren't exactly on the same page as to how to handle climate change.

More to the point, Tapper asked Ocasio-Cortez whether or not she was bothered by the fact that Biden has not said he would outright ban fracking. The move to ban fracking in states across the country has been a seesaw battle of fossil fuel interests fighting against progressive environmentalism and science. Biden's refusal to provide full-throated support for a ban on fracking is disappointing to many of us on the left, but it isn't surprising. Even more importantly, it is below the most essential first step the progressive movement—and the country for that matter—needs to take: getting rid of Donald Trump and getting rid of the Republican majority in the Senate.

Rep. Ocasio-Cortez isn't going to be pulled into a pointless argument about fracking with Jake Tapper. Her position is well-reported. So is Biden's. AOC explains very clearly that this is how politics work in a representative democracy.

REP. ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ: It does not bother me. I believe, and I have a very strong position on fracking. You know, the science is very clear, the methane emissions from fracking are up to 64 times more powerful than CO2 emissions and trapping heat in the air, and just from a perspective of stopping climate change there is a scientific consensus. However, that is my view. Vice President Biden has made very clear that he does not agree with the fracking ban and I consider that, you know—it will be a privilege to lobby him should we win the White House but we need to focus on winning the White House first. I am happy to make my case but I also understand he is in disagreement on that issue.

Tapper wonders whether this will depress the youth vote, a vote that AOC represents more closely than Biden. This, of course, is literally the only reason Trump and his surrogates have been bringing up this difference of positions the last couple of weeks. The hope is that it will depress the more progressive vote, while spooking some more conservative-leaning folks in fossil-fuel heavy states like Pennsylvania and Texas. Ocasio-Cortez points out that the youth vote over the past couple of years has not simply become more sophisticated since 2016, it has brought in more progressive candidates and officials into local elections. The turnout in 2018 showed that, and Ocasio-Cortez believes that this election is very clearly a choice between Donald Trump, someone who is a non-starter of a human being, and Joe Biden.

Tapper then plays a clip of Biden telling reporters that he isn't "getting rid of fossil fuels for a long time," but that he's talking about getting rid of the subsidies the fake free-marketeers enjoy in the fossil fuel industry. While Tapper is hoping that this will illustrate how Biden isn't AOC and the youth vote may be turned off by this statement, she sees it as an important step in the right direction.

REP. OCASIO-CORTEZ: When he says we are eliminating subsidies, I think that is, frankly, an important first step. A lot of folks who like to tout themselves as free market capitalists, while still trying to make sure they get as much government subsidy, and propping up of the fossil fuel industry as possible. ... If you do believe in markets, solar and renewable energies are growing less and less expensive by the day in many areas. They are starting to become less expensive than fossil fuels. When you eliminate government subsidies, it becomes more difficult for fossil fuels to compete in the market. I think while the vice president wants to make sure that he is not doing it by government mandate or regulation. I do believe that we are moving towards that future. I believe that there's a way and that we should push that process along but again, the vice president and my disagreements are, I believe, recorded and that is quite all right.