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Cotton says closing Guantanamo folly

U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton on Tuesday called on President Barack Obama to continue housing suspected terrorists at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, saying it would be a mistake for the administration to close the facility and transfer the detainees to facilities in the United States or elsewhere.

The Dardanelle Republican made the comments during a speech at the headquarters of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative Washington think tank.

Early in his presidency, Obama said he would close the Guantanamo lockup, but Congress passed legislation to block such a move.

Asked afterward whether he thinks Obama will close the detention center, Cotton said: "I hope he doesn't because there is an explicit congressional prohibition and that would truly be a constitutional showdown. But some of the rhetoric and media reports coming from unnamed White House sources suggest that he will. I suspect he won't before the election, though."

Roughly 780 people have been held at Guantanamo Bay since the facility opened in early 2002. Most have been released.

Asked whether he was convinced that the 107 remaining detainees are all guilty beyond a reasonable doubt of crimes or acts of war that merit lifetime incarceration, Cotton said: "Yes, I am. The Obama administration is as well. Otherwise, they would have released those 107 already."

Hill lauds retiring ASU-Beebe leader

Arkansas' 2nd District U.S. Rep. French Hill gave a speech in the House of Representatives on Tuesday honoring Eugene McKay.

McKay, the Arkansas State University-Beebe chancellor, is retiring in January after nearly a half-century in education.

"For the past five decades, Chancellor McKay has displayed an unrelenting commitment to education in Arkansas and has been a beacon for quality higher education at Arkansas State University," Hill said.

The speech by Hill, a Republican from Little Rock, was beamed live on C-SPAN.

Noting that the Beebe Chamber of Commerce had given McKay its lifetime achievement and educator of the year awards, Hill said, "Chancellor McKay made an indelible impact on the lives of his students, faculty, and alumni, and our communities and businesses thank him. He will be greatly missed."

NORAD says Santa again on its radar

U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton is making sure that Santa won't encounter any no-fly zones as he races across the sky on Christmas Eve. During a Senate hearing on "U.S. Strategy to Counter the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and U.S. Policy Toward Iraq and Syria," Cotton asked the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Air Force Gen. Paul J. Selva, whether military officials would be tracking St. Nick's nighttime flight.

The four-star general, wearing his dress uniform, wasn't able to say for sure.

"I don't have a complete intelligence report, senator, but I understand that the reindeer have been in fact fed their quantity of oats and are prepared for the delivery of all of those gifts to those who have been nice and not naughty," Selva said.

Officials with the North American Aerospace Defense Command, also known as NORAD, have issued a news release confirming that Santa will be on their radar again this year.

The agency reports that it has tracked Santa's miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer every year since 1955.

Since the intelligence isn't classified, any civilian can get updates online by going to noradsanta.org.

Boozman joins in Yule gift exchange

U.S. Sen. John Boozman, a Republican from Rogers, participated in the Senate Secret Santa gift exchange. Boozman and U.S. Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., organized the annual event.

Boozman got U.S. Sen. David Vitter's name. He gave the Louisiana Republican a candle from Aromatique, a company based in Heber Springs. The company's products, which feature a "melange of native botanicals," are American-made and sold in stores across the country.

U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill had Boozman's name and gave him a book about President Harry Truman. McCaskill is a Missouri Democrat; Truman was a Missouri Democrat, too.

After fulfilling his holiday duties, Boozman returned to Arkansas to interview high school students who have applied for nomination to one of the nation's service academies.

Arkansan testifies cotton farms in woe

The House Agriculture Committee's Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities and Risk Management held a hearing Wednesday focusing on the state of the American cotton industry.

Arkansas 1st District U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford, a Republican from Jonesboro, is chairman of the subcommittee. Witnesses included Nathan Reed of Marianna, the Arkansas state chairman of American Cotton Producers.

In his prepared remarks, Reed told lawmakers that it's a challenging time. "We know that agriculture and farming always has its share of ups and downs -- that is to be expected -- but the current situation in the cotton industry goes beyond these challenges and is to the breaking point for many producers and those in other industry segments," he said.

Crawford said cotton producers are struggling with low commodity prices, rising costs and "distorted markets" resulting from foreign trade practices.

8 state lawmakers visit on Capitol Hill

Some Arkansas state legislators visited Washington this week and stopped by Capitol Hill.

Republican state Reps. Dan Douglas of Bentonville, James Sturch of Batesville, Ken Henderson of Russellville, Lane Jean of Magnolia, Laurie Rushing of Hot Springs, Micah Neal of Springdale and Nelda Speaks of Mountain Home met with U.S. Rep. Steve Womack and U.S. Sen. John Boozman, both Republicans from Rogers, their spokesmen said. State Sen. Joyce Elliott, D-Little Rock, was also on hand.

On Tuesday evening, Arkansas 4th District U.S. Rep. Bruce Westerman gave Rushing, Henderson and Speaks a tour of the U.S. Capitol, his spokesman said. With official business completed for the day, he was able to take them onto the House and Senate floors.

The National Conference of State Legislatures was holding its Capitol Forum on Tuesday through Friday.

Planning to visit the nation's capital? Know something happening in Washington, D.C.? Contact Frank Lockwood at (202) 662-7690 or [email protected]

SundayMonday on 12/13/2015

Print Headline: Washington notebook

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