News on the go: November 22, 2013

Carrie Blazina

The United States and Afghanistan disagreed Thursday about when to sign a new security pact, with Secretary of State John Kerry saying he wanted a deal this year and Afghan President Hamid Karzai saying he preferred that his successor sign it. Kerry and Karzai already agreed this week on the language for the deal, which could allow thousands of U.S. troops to stay in Afghanistan after 2014, when the NATO-led combat mission ends. It was unclear why Karzai changed his mind, but Afghan experts in the U.S. thought he might try to get the U.S. to make more concessions.

A Colorado judge Thursday indefinitely postponed the trial of Aurora theater shooter James Holmes so attorneys can debate whether he should have further psychiatric evaluation. The trial had been scheduled to start in February for Holmes, who pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity to charges related to the deaths of 12 people and the injuries of 70 others at a midnight showing of “The Dark Knight Rises” in July 2012. Prosecutors seek the death penalty against Holmes, who underwent a sanity evaluation last summer. (read full story)

Senate Democrats on Thursday passed new rules making filibustering presidential appointees harder. The new precedent is to allow a simple majority, not a 60-vote majority, to end debate in the Senate and lead to a yes-or-no vote on presidential nominees to government agencies, federal courts or Cabinet departments. The move cleared the way for post-Thanksgiving confirmation of Patricia Millett, an Obama appointee to the D.C. circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals, and two other stalled nominees.

On Thursday, Federal Communications Commission chairman Tom Wheeler said the time has come to review the “outdated and restrictive rules” about cellphone use on planes. Flight attendants and airline officials objected, saying phone use in an aircraft’s cabin has a negative effect on aviation safety and that noisy passengers could lead to arguments. Officials recently lifted the ban on using most electronic devices on planes during takeoffs and landings, but this did not lift the ban on cellphone calls.

Contact Carrie Blazina at [email protected].