wasn't until three months after a U.S. drone blasted a suspected al-Qaida compound in Pakistan that America's spies figured out that an aid worker from Rockville had been killed, the White House said this week.

The deaths of Warren Weinstein, who was working as a federal contractor on economic development projects in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region when he was captured by al-Qaida in 2011, and an Italian aid worker drew renewed calls for a change in the U.S.

Lawmakers including Rep. John Delaney, Weinstein's congressman, have called for the creation of an office to coordinate intelligence and rescue attempts among the federal agencies involved when a hostage is taken. The White House said it is weighing a similar idea as part of an ongoing review of the actions the government takes when people are captured by terrorists.

The proposed shift follows a series of high-profile failures, including a botched commando raid in Yemen in December that saw the captors kill the two hostages, an American and a South African. Several attempts to rescue Americans imprisoned by Islamic State in Syria also failed, and the group beheaded three of them last fall.

President Barack Obama said Thursday that Weinstein and Giovanni Lo Porto were killed in a January drone strike. He said officials did not know that Weinstein and Lo Porto were being held at the compound.

Delaney, a Montgomery County Democrat, said identifying where captives are being held is a basic step that should be emphasized.

"It puts us in a position of trying to get them out, either through rescue missions or diplomatic efforts," he said. "At a minimum, it prevents us from bombing."

Delaney said he had been developing legislation before Weinstein's death was announced that would require the National Security Council to create a committee chaired by a "hostage czar" who could drive the government's efforts. He had hoped the bill would pass in time to aid Weinstein, he said, but plans to continue working on it.

Weinstein's wife was searing in her criticism of the government after Obama announced his death.

In a statement, Elaine Weinstein praised Delaney, Sens. Ben Cardin and Barbara A. Mikulski of Maryland and the FBI for their "relentless efforts to try to free my husband."

"Unfortunately," she said, "the assistance we received from other elements of the U.S. government was inconsistent and disappointing over the course of three and a half years."

O'Malley calls for discussion on drone use following hostage deaths
O'Malley calls for discussion on drone use following hostage deaths
White House spokesman Joshua Earnest said Friday that Obama was weighing the creation of a "fusion cell" that would coordinate between the Departments of Defense and State and the intelligence community, all of which play a role when an American is taken hostage.

"It would ensure those efforts are closely integrated, both in terms of the steps that are taken by the agencies to secure the return and rescue of the hostage but also as it relates to the communication with the family of the hostage," Earnest said.

Earnest said the White House aims to work more closely with families of those held, and is seeking their input on how to do so. Officials have sent letters to 82 families and former hostages, dating to 2001, and have spoken with 22 so far.

The White House launched its review in November after family members of several hostages killed in Syria publicly criticized the government's official refusal to pay ransom or negotiate with terrorists, as some European governments do.

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While the CIA and other U.S. spy agencies generally take the lead on collecting intelligence on where hostages are being held, the FBI has jurisdiction to investigate crimes against Americans overseas, including kidnapping.

The FBI recently formed a hostage rescue task force at its headquarters in Washington to improve coordination with other agencies.

Also at headquarters, the FBI has a group of "victims assistance" specialists with experience in social services who are in touch with families. The FBI often taps agents in its 56 field offices across the country to meet quickly with families whose loved ones have been taken hostage and offer them assistance.

The FBI draws on the experience of behavioral experts at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Va., who study past hostage situations to better understand the thought processes within terrorist organizations to develop advice on how to negotiate with kidnappers.

The FBI also has an operational group at Quantico called the Hostage Rescue Team.

"The FBI is enormously diligent about trying to track down American hostages, but I think an improved interagency process, a higher profile on the issue may be called for," said Rep. Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee. "It is regrettably a problem that is not going to go away."

Members of Maryland's congressional delegation said they would review any proposals to improve the government's efforts. A spokeswoman for Cardin, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said he was considering whether to make changes using the State Department's annual funding bill.

"He agrees there should be better communication with the families of these hostages," Sue Walitsky said. "Having a loved one taken is a gut-wrenching experience for any family; it's the not knowing and the silence that makes it all the more hard."

Delaney said the new office he is proposing would have the power to align diplomatic, intelligence and military resources in the effort to return hostages home.

In Weinstein's case, Delaney said, the Pakistani government was slow to help. A key part of the czar's job, he said, would be encouraging foreign leaders to turn over information. If they refuse to help, he said, the United States could withhold aid money.

"The asks on these hostages are very specific," he said. "We're not asking them to change their foreign policy."

Who doesn’t like risotto?
Risotto is comfort food in the first degree. Dating back to the 1400s, this dish has become a global favorite. When it was discovered that humidity of the Mediterranean was the perfect climate for short-grain rice growing it became “the” grain to grow.
It was widely sought after, which drove up the prices, creating high profits for the growers.
Some say the recipe comes from Milan, which was under Spanish rule for nearly two centuries. Rice had become a staple and when it was married with the slow-cooking process in the region, risotto was born.
Straightforward risotto is made with Arborio rice, chicken stock, onions, saffron, butter and parmesan cheese.
Because simple risotto makes such a fantastic foundation, one can build flavors from many ingredients such as mushrooms, onion, peas, zucchini, asparagus, leeks or seafood like shrimp, scallops, clams, mussels, halibut or salmon. The list goes on and on.
This week I made a Crimini Mushroom Risotto Carbonara finished with chopped fresh parsley and lemon zest.
Creamy Arborio rice flavored with sautéed crimini mushrooms, sautéed diced bacon and shallots, white wine, saffron, chicken stock and parmesan cheese.
Risotto this good needs no lead dish. It eats like a main course, rich buttery and smooth and the recipe only uses one tablespoon of butter. It’s the starch from the rice that gives it all that smooth butter texture.
Treat yourself tonight and make some risotto this way or your way. It’s a flavor foundation and it’s time to play with your food and build those flavors high.

How do people who benefit from the government's safety net programs spend their money? If you based your understanding on some of the recent Republican proposals to reform those programs, you might think being on public assistance is a righteous party.

However onerous the reality of being on welfare may be, Republicans in the U.S. Congress and in state legislatures around the country seem bent on portraying welfare recipients as having a lavish and leisurely lifestyle on the government's dime.

Here is what a welfare recipient's day looks like through the lens of recent Republican proposals to reform the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, better known as food stamps, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, the program most commonly described as "welfare." These lawmakers sometimes base their proposals on anecdotes, sometimes on documented instances of benefits being spent in questionable ways -- but always on the idea that poor people shouldn't be having any fun at the taxpayer's expense.

In February, Missouri state Rep. Rick Brattin (R) proposed banning food stamps recipients from using their Electronic Benefit Transfer cards to buy steak and seafood.

"I have seen people purchasing filet mignons and crab legs with their EBT cards," Brattin explained to The Washington Post. "When I can't afford it on my pay, I don't want people on the taxpayer's dime to afford those kinds of foods either."

SNAP distributes benefits on EBT cards to 46 million Americans. These benefits can be used for any food product as long as it isn't a hot prepared meal, so steak and seafood are eligible items. Still, Brattin's bill isn't going anywhere

In 2013, Fox News ran several segments on Jason Greenslate, an unemployed San Diego surfer who bragged about receiving food stamps. He became known as the "food stamp surfer" after footage showed him buying sushi and lobster with a SNAP debit card.

Greenslate became a poster child for Republicans in the House of Representatives,who highlighted his story in their efforts to reimpose limits on how long able-bodied adults without dependents can receive SNAP benefits.

"You can no longer sit on your couch or ride a surfboard like Jason in California and expect the federal taxpayer to feed you," Rep. Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.) said on the House floor in 2013.

The time limit on SNAP benefits, a feature of the 1996 welfare reform law, had been waived in almost every state because of high unemployment rates caused by the Great Recession. House Republicans at the time were seeking to reinstate the limits. They didn't immediately get their way, but since then, many states have independently reimposed a three-month time limit on benefits for able-bodied adults with no dependents, resulting in thousands of people being dropped from the program's rolls.

Able-bodied working-age adults without dependents made up just 10.5 percent of all SNAP recipients in 2013, according to the most recent data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which oversees the program.

At 39 years old, Charlize Theron is looking hotter than ever.

But it's the inside photos, all shot by famed photographers Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott, that will have her fans doing double-takes. Check out a smoldering Charlize looking every bit the bad girl in her New York Vintage jumpsuit unzipped all the way to her naval, complete with a cigarette dangling from her mouth.

She similarly leaves her clothes undone in another sexy shot, pushing up her black bra and showing off some gorgeous Cartier jewelry.

Charlize definitely seems to only look better with age, and reflects on the lessons she's learned growing older in Hollywood.

"I think, like many women, I was judgmental toward women as they aged," she admits to the fashion magazine. "Women, in our society, are compartmentalized so that we start to feel like we’re cut flowers and after a while we will wilt. I realize now that’s not the case -- we can celebrate every age. That's my encouragement to 20-year-olds who are terrified of getting older: Don’t have a nervous breakdown and don't hit the Chardonnay too hard. Getting older is not that bad."

When thinking of spring, the words that come to mind are cleanliness and regeneration.

Cleaning in spring was aptly named spring cleaning for this very reason.

Now take a good look at your lingerie drawer and ask yourself if each piece makes you feel beautiful, and if you'd want someone else to see you wear it.

If not, it's time to say goodbye and start afresh.

Here is our guide to the essential items for your lingerie drawer, from bras that can be worn with any dress, to the invisible control knickers that make you feel as carefree as ever.

Everyday knickers

Having the days of the week on any garment will certainly keep your diary in check and these colourful knickers from Cheek Frills also call to mind that famous When Harry Met Sally scene, which can only be a good thing,

Invisible thong

The concept of a "one-size-fits-all" thong sounds alarming, until you try it out.

Seamless and endlessly stretchy, this lace version is undetectable under even the tightest dress or white jeans. You'll want one in every colour.


Part lingerie, part pyjamas, part beachwear, this Rio playsuit by Asceno By Beautiful Bottoms is inspired by the part of the world where having a beautiful bottom is all important, Brazil.

Sexy but comfortable nightdress

Previously the domain of the Eighties sex siren, the nightdress is making a comeback.

Beautiful enough to wear in front of your beloved, and comfortable enough for nights spent only with Netflix, this dove grey version might even make it to a party teamed with a denim jacket come summer.

Colourful bra top

Pretty enough to be glimpsed under a denim shirt or low-cut vest, the coloured bra is a universal style essential - even for those not accustomed to flashing their intimates.

Hold-up stockings

Their reputation may lean towards the sexy, but hold-ups fight for their place in your lingerie drawer by virtue of their functional value. Wearing a tight dress but not warm enough for bare legs? Hold-ups to the rescue

For more than fifty years, Western research into the use of hallucinogenic mushrooms (Psilocybe spp.) by aboriginal peoples of Mexico and other parts of southern North America and Central America, and publications regarding such investigations, have fed an exponential increase in the cultivation and use of hallucinogenic mushrooms by citizens of the United States and other modernized civilizations.

Ritually used by those native peoples for religious purposes, "shrooms" became tremendously popular within the U.S. "hippie" counterculture during the 1970s, thanks in large part to the publication of several books detailing practical methods for cultivating Psilocybe cubensis, a species which is common on cow and horse dung in the Southeastern states (South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and southeastern Texas).

There aren't a lot of divers exploring the ocean depths offshore of Antarctica; and of those brave enough to plunge into the icy waters, fewer still are women.

Part of the reason might be the gear. Historically, diving gear has been designed for men.

"There's a lot of differences and we can't just start with a men's pattern and scale it down and make it pink which is what pretty much what everyone was doing," diving professional Faith Ortins told Ryk Goddard on 936 ABC Hobart.

Ortins and Vallorie Hodges, a diving officer at the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies partnered up to design BlueHeat, dry suits and battery-powered garments after growing frustrated at the lack of diving suits made for women.

The equipment, sold by DUI, will take into account the obvious differences a woman's body shape and size has when compared to a man's, such as fuller hips, smaller shoulders, smaller arms and a different ratio between height and weight.

It's also available for men

Spice-Rubbed Steak with Sautéed Wild Mushrooms
2 teaspoons ancho chile powder (see Tip)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon packed dark brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt plus 1/4 teaspoon, divided
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper plus 1/8 teaspoon, divided
1 pound flank steak, trimmed
5 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup chopped shallots
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound assorted wild mushrooms, trimmed and sliced
1/3 cup Madeira or dry sherry
1/2 cup low-sodium beef broth
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley

The Edible Gardening Exchange will be a busy place this week, as it will host its monthly meeting and a special Saturday workshop at the North Fort Myers Recreation Center.

On Thursday, the exchange will hold its monthly meeting on mushrooms, beginning with an informal open discussion at 5:30 p.m. before the actual 6:30 meeting.

The guest speaker will be Benjamin Dion, a local expert on the identification, use, and ecological role of various fungi in Southwest Florida.

Karen Harty, who runs the exchange, said she found Dion through ECHO.

"We're looking for professionals who will advise us on edible mushrooms. Many people are asking if they can eat certain mushrooms," Harty said. "I won't say because all I know is that some are good and some are bad for you. He will show us which is which and how we can grow them ourselves."

On Saturday, from 1 to 3 p.m., the exchange will hold a special workshop on organic controls for the home gardener.

Attendees will learn how to use organic controls to tackle disease and insect pests in the home garden.

Harty will be the speaker for the workshop. She said many organic gardeners know about organic controls, but can't figure out how to do it or which controls are organic.

"It gets a little overwhelming when you look at the wall of pesticides when you go to Home Depot," Harty said. "This will help them understand what the products are and what they will do."

There will be a $20 fee for the program, which will include presentation, a laminated pest/ disease control guide, and workshops on making yellow sticky traps and an organic spray mix, which will be custom made for whatever needs the gardeners have.

"The last time people had to buy an entire kit, and nobody wanted to do that because they didn't all have the same issues. This will allow them to make their own educated decisions," Harty said.

Registration is required. Participants will have the opportunity to place orders for difficult-to-find organic controls at the workshop.

"We keep it fun and friendly. Our club has never had a president or vice president. I want to treat it as educational and that's what this is about," Harty said.

The membership fee for monthly meetings April through September is $10. In addition, a $10 Lee Parks and Recreation lifetime membership is required.

The Saturday workshop does not require a membership.


Cut new potatoes into bite sized pieces, boil in salted water for 10-15 minutes until tender. Drain.

Heat 1 teaspoon of olive oil in a pan over medium heat, and cook and stir the pine nuts until lightly toasted and fragrant, about 3 minutes. Remove the pine nuts from the pan and set aside.

Pour 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large pan over medium heat, add the mushrooms stirring, until they begin to give up their juices but are still firm, about 5 minutes. Drain the juices.