January 9th, 2014
10:32 AM ET

Shezanne Cassim, Once-Jailed American, Leaves the UAE

Shezanne Cassim, an American who was imprisoned in the United Arab Emirates after posting a video that parodied Dubai teens, has left the Gulf nation and is flying home to the United States, his family said.

Traveling with his father Sanath Cassim, Shezanne left Dubai early Thursday and is expected to arrive in Minneapolis, Minnesota, later in the day.

Shezanne's brother, Shervon Cassim, told CNN "my family and I are relieved and overjoyed that there is finally an end to this."

According to his family, Shezanne Cassim, of Woodbury, Minnesota, ended up serving nine months in prison - more than half of those before being charged - before his recent move to a deportation facility.

He had moved to Dubai in 2006 after graduating from college to work for PricewaterhouseCoopers.

His family says the 29-year-old was arrested in April after uploading a 19-minute video that pokes fun at a clique of Dubai teens influenced by hip-hop culture.

In December, he was sentenced to a year in prison and a fine of about $2,700. The charges were not read in court, but the country's main English-language newspaper reported that Cassim was accused of defaming the UAE's image abroad.

UAE officials would say only that Cassim "was charged under the UAE's penal code" and was "entitled to the fair trial protections contained in the UAE's constitution."

In the 1990s, the label "Satwa G" was coined for a group of suburban teens who were known to talk tougher than they really were.

Cassim's video depicts a "combat school" in the Dubai district of Satwa, where these "gangsters" are trained. The training includes how to throw sandals at targets, use clothing accessories as whips and how to call on the phone for backup.

Shervon Cassim previously told CNN his brother made the video "just for fun."

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January 9th, 2014
10:16 AM ET

White House: Obama Believes in Afghanistan Mission

Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates' criticism of his former boss President Barack Obama on Afghanistan doesn't align with the commander-in-chief's views, the White House said Wednesday.

In his memoir, which arrived at the White House on Tuesday evening, Gates states Obama "doesn't believe in his own strategy" in Afghanistan.

"For him, it's all about getting out," the former defense chief writes.

Jay Carney, the White House press secretary, argued Obama had helped "refocus" troops and commanders on the United States' mission in the country.

"The President devised the mission and has great faith in the troops who carry out the mission and in the mission itself, that it's the right mission to pursue in Afghanistan," Carney said in response to a question from CNN Senior White House Correspondent Brianna Keilar. "I think that's been borne out. That doesn't mean it's not a challenge. Of course it is."

Critics have faulted the timing of the memoir's release, though sources familiar with Gates' thinking say he stands by the book and his choice to publish the memoir next week.

He argued the book should be taken in full context, noting a considerable amount of praise for Obama, in addition to the tough criticisms.

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January 9th, 2014
10:11 AM ET

Marco Rubio Wades into Poverty Politics With Call for More State Control

Sen. Marco Rubio declared the last 50 years in the war on poverty a failure on Wednesday, drawing a considerable line between his view on how to fight poverty and those of his Democratic colleagues.

In his policy address, which fell on the 50th anniversary of President Lyndon Johnson's call for an "all-out war on human poverty," Rubio bashed Democratic proposals to raise the minimum wage and lobbied for the states, not the federal government, to control anti-poverty programs.

The Republican from Florida and possible GOP 2016 presidential contender said his poverty stance was grounded in the idea that government spending is not the answer to "healing the wounds of poverty."

"I am proposing that we turn over Washington's anti-poverty programs – and the trillions spent on them – to the states," Rubio said, symbolically delivering his speech in the U.S. Capitol's ornate Lyndon B. Johnson Room. "America is still the land of opportunity for most, but it is not a land of opportunity for all. If we are to remain an exceptional nation, we must close this gap in opportunity."

Speaking to Kate Bolduan on "New Day" Thursday, Rubio said:

"I do not believe, in fact I know, Washington and it's 'one size fits all' approach is not conducive to finding the kind of innovative solutions that it will take to deal with the complex underlying causes of poverty."

SEE FULL INTERVIEW ABOVE

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January 9th, 2014
09:50 AM ET

N.J. State Senator Calls for Investigation of Christie Administration for Possible "Criminal Acts"

In an interview with CNN’s "New Day", NJ State Senator Ray Lesniak said that he will call for a federal investigation into Gov. Chris Christie’s administration over allegations that top Christie appointees orchestrated traffic jams on the country’s busiest bridge last year as part of a political vendetta against the city’s mayor.

Sen. Lesniak said “There's certainly reasonable suspicion that criminal acts have been involved here. Not only abuse of governmental power for political purposes, but we have reckless endangerment of people's lives and possibly criminally negligent homicide.  Those investigations have to be pursued by the authorities of the U.S. attorney’s office.”

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