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Friday, October 31, 2014

Iran Leads at Halftime; Game Over?

by Shoshana Bryen

The relevant UN Resolution, as well as the Congressional sanctions bill, says the acceptable level of enrichment is none at all. The administration is, in fact, negotiating a level. This track means the total erasure of all international sanctions.
All of the steps Iran took are reversible. Iran's "expressed desires" should not be the driver of U.S. policy.
The Coach-in Chief, President Obama, appears to believe the West and Iran are on the same team looking for a negotiated tie. The Iranians, however, are looking for nuclear weapons.
In the run up to November's P5+1 talks, Iran has already won the battles that count; remember, this is the bazaar. After last year's unsatisfactory interim agreement, this author wrote:

A deal that is not a capitulation requires two conditions: the parties must equally value the process; and there has to be a compatible endgame. The West invested the process with much more value than did Iran, providing the mullahs with instant leverage, but most important, there was no agreed-upon end game.
The P5+1 wanted to negotiate the terms of Iran's nuclear surrender; Iran was negotiating the conditions under which it will operate its nuclear program.
We are familiar with the rules of buying a rug in the souk. The goals are compatible -- he wants to sell, you want to buy. If you want the rug more than he wants the deal, you will overpay; if he wants the deal more than you want the rug, you win. But either way, money and rug will change hands. Alternatively, if you want to buy a rug and he wants to sell a camel, no matter how ardently you bargain there will be no deal. Unless you change your mind and take the camel.
The White House took the camel.
A speech by Wendy Sherman, the U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, to a P5+1 symposium in Washington, made that clear:
"The President has pledged to ensure that Iran will not acquire a nuclear weapon.... Specifically, Iran [took a number of steps, including having] agreed not to make further advances at the Arak heavy water reactor; and opened the door to unprecedented daily access for international inspectors to the facilities at Natanz and Fordow."
Maybe. But all of the steps Iran took are reversible, IAEA inspectors were denied access to a suspected military site at Parchin, and the issue of warhead delivery systems has not been addressed. If they cheat, it is worth noting that its friend in proliferation, North Korea, appears to have miniaturized a nuclear weapon to fit on a mobile missile. Want to risk it? In Wendy Sherman's words:
"[O]ur group has proposed to Iran a number of ideas that are equitable, enforceable, and consistent with Tehran's expressed desire for a viable civilian nuclear program and that take into account that country's scientific knowhow and economic needs."
Iran's legitimate civilian needs could be met through legal purchases of enriched uranium. Iran's "expressed desires" should not be the driver of U.S. policy.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry shakes hands with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif during talks in Vienna, Austria, July 14, 2014. (Image source: U.S. State Department)
According to Sherman:

US Secretary of State Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif
"Iran's Supreme Leader has repeatedly said that his government has neither the aspiration nor the intention of building a nuclear weapon; indeed, he has said that such a project would be forbidden under Islam. So our proposals are consistent with Iran's own publicly-stated position."
"Iran's leaders would very much hope that the world would conclude that the status quo -- at least on this pivotal subject -- should be acceptable, but obviously, it is not."
Iran's goal was to establish the principle of its "right" to enrich uranium. Although the relevant UN Resolution says the acceptable level of enrichment is none at all -- as does the relevant and lopsidedly approved Congressional sanctions bill -- the administration granted Iran's principle and is, in fact, negotiating a level.
Sherman continued,
"The temptation to link the nuclear question to other topics is understandable. However ... we are concentrating on one job and one job only, and that is ensuring that Iran does not acquire a nuclear weapon."
This single-track negotiation has allowed Iran to proceed without American objection along the path to a variety of other important Iranian ends, including:
Additional repression at home, which is crucial to the longevity of the regime. Twenty-six-year old Reyhaneh Jabbari was the 967th person to be executed since the "moderate" Hassan Rouhani became Iran's president in August 2013. She was convicted of killing the man she accused of raping her, but with no investigation of her claim. The pace of executions has been accelerating: 381 by the end of 2013, 586 so far this year, including Miss Jabbari.
The victims are often hung from cranes in public with an audience that includes children.
There is a new campaign of throwing acid in the faces of women not considered "modest" by roving gangs, and probably instigated by the Basiji paramilitary police. (Check photos on the Internet if you dare, but be warned.) Writer and professor emerita Phyllis Chesler wrote recently that the Women's Freedom Forum of Iran told her laws have been passed to protect the acid throwers, and the regime has been "intimidating the families of the victims and hospital nurses and staff. Reporters are also prevented from going to hospitals to see the victims."
There are also reports of increasing pressure on non-Muslim communities in Iran. The attacks are much like those of ISIS -- but with no condemnation from the White House.
Support for Syrian murderer Bashar Assad: With the U.S. diverting attention to ISIS and demanding that "moderate Syrian rebels" (yes, quotation marks indicate skepticism about whether "moderates" exist and if they do, that we know who they are) shut down their attacks or postpone desired attacks against the Syrian government, which has been repressing, bombing, gassing, and starving their compatriots. Instead, says the U.S., turn on Sunni "radicals," who are at least cousins of the Sunni "moderates," and kill them first -- removing one threat from Damascus.
More support for Assad -- and Iran: The U.S. air campaign is the decision of the President, who said we are there at the "invitation of the Iraqi government." That creates two problems: the Iraqi government, even the new one, is Shiite-dominated and beholden to Iran; and it makes the U.S. Air Force an agent of those two bodies against their most serious adversaries.
If Iran and the Baghdad government are so worried about ISIS (and they are), why not let THEM do something about it? Why is the U.S. trying (not very successfully) to create a Sunni coalition to fight a Sunni organization? America's tepid air support and failure to provide American or allied "boots on the ground" have already bred resentment among Iraqi Sunnis, who are considering how to create some stability with ISIS rather than fighting what they see as a losing battle. (See U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan for similar problems with the Afghan National Security Force.)
Perhaps most important: The total erasure of all international sanctions. There have been justified complaints about European countries running to do business with Iran, even during the sanctions period; Germany may be the prime offender here. But the U.S. has jumped in bed with them—first releasing billions in frozen Iranian assets and now permitting U.S. companies to sign new contracts with the Islamic Republic. A week ago, Boeing, a major U.S. defense contractor, announced that it had signed its first new contract with Iran since 1979.
The game is not over at halftime. No matter how great the score disparity, if the team behind -- in this case the P5+1 -- makes adjustments and sticks to its goals, victory is still possible. It is not likely in this instance because the Coach-in-Chief, President Obama, appears to believe the West and Iran are on the same team looking for a negotiated tie.
The Iranians, however, are looking for nuclear weapons.

Record Wall Street Money Flows to Republicans

Max Abelson

Oct. 31 (Bloomberg) -- Most of America isn’t interested in next week’s elections. Wall Street is an exception.
The $169 million from donors in the securities and investment industry is the most they’ve ever contributed in a midterm election, according to Center for Responsive Politics data. That makes them the most generous group for the first time in decades, with about two-thirds of the money going to Republicans in what the Washington-based nonprofit projects will be the country’s most expensive non-presidential election.
Financiers donating to Republicans and Democrats said their investments are driven by something grander than self-interest.
“Wall Street, in its many forms, has as its operative word ‘the future.’”
Dan Lufkin
“If Wall Street is in fact the largest contributor to the midterms, it is precisely because of its true concern for the future of our country,” said Dan Lufkin, who co-founded investment bank Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette and has donated to candidates from both parties. “Wall Street, in its many forms, has as its operative word ‘the future.’”
The industry’s biggest donor was Paul Singer’s hedge fund Elliott Management, with $12.1 million. Among top givers were employees from Ken Griffin’s Citadel LLC, Soros Fund Management LLC and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. Wall Street’s lead over retirees, lawyers and other groups grows wider when commercial banks including JPMorgan Chase & Co. are added.

Switching Allegiance

After giving more to Democrats in 2006 and 2008, securities and investment donors switched allegiance in 2010, when President Barack Obama signed the Dodd-Frank Act’s financial regulations into law. Three Republicans, House Speaker John Boehner, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Whip John Cornyn, each received more than $1 million from the industry from the beginning of last year through Oct. 15, according to the center’s data.
That doesn’t match Democrat Cory Booker, the New Jersey senator, whose $1.9 million makes him the industry’s current favorite, the data show.
“It is not surprising to me that financial services contributed more to the midterm election than any other industry,” said Robert Wolf, founder of 32 Advisors LLC and a former UBS AG executive, who hosted an August fundraiser for Democrats that Obama attended. “For me it has always been based on the candidate and how his or her views align with my views on certain key issues.”
Wolf’s peers are paying more attention than most Americans to the Nov. 4 elections that will determine control of the Senate. About two-thirds aren’t following midterm news closely or at all, a Pew Research Center survey conducted Oct. 2 through Oct. 5 found. Attention lags behind where it was four and eight years ago, overshadowed by interest in Ebola, Secret Service missteps and airstrikes against the Islamic State.
When Pew asked voters which parties control the House and Senate, fewer than half answered both correctly.

Authorities: 1 dead, 1 injured in Virgin Galactic spacecraft crash

LOS ANGELES, Oct 31 (Reuters) - One person was killed and a second person

 seriously injured on Friday in the crash of a Virgin Galactic passenger spaceship

 during a test flight in the Mojave Desert in California, CNN and CNBC reported,

 citing the California Highway Patrol.
At least two pilots were aboard the spacecraft, which was undergoing its first

 powered test flight since January, according to the Mojave Air and Space Port.
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla., Oct 31 (Reuters) - A suborbital passenger spaceship being

 developed by Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic crashed during a test flight on

 Friday at the Mojave Air and Space Port in California, the company said.
"During the test, the vehicle suffered a serious anomaly resulting in the loss of 

SpaceShipTwo," the company said in a tweet, adding: "We will work closely with

 relevant authorities to determine the cause of this accident and provide updates

Two pilots were aboard the spaceship, which was undergoing its first powered test

 flight since January, but it was not immediately known if they were able to

 parachute to safety.
More than 800 people have paid or put down deposits to fly aboard the spaceship,

 which is carried to an altitude of about 45,000 feet and released. The spaceship

 then fires its rocket motor to catapult it to about 62 miles (100 km) above Earth,

 giving passengers a view of the planet set against the blackness of space and a few

 minutes of weightlessness.
SpaceShipTwo is seen mounted under its mother ship White Knight at a Virgin Galactic hangar at Mojave Air and Space Port in Mojave, Calif., Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2013.© AP Photo/Reed Saxon SpaceShipTwo is seen mounted under its mother ship White Knight at a Virgin Galactic hangar at Mojave Air and Space Port in Mojave, Calif., Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2013.The spaceship is based on a prototype, called SpaceShipOne, which 10 years ago

 won the $10 million Ansari X Prize for the first privately developed manned

 spacecraft to fly in space.
Friday's test was to be the spaceship's first powered test flight since January. In May,

 Virgin Galactic and spaceship developer Scaled Composites, a subsidiary of

 Northrop Grumman Corp, switched to an alternative plastic-type of fuel grain for 

the hybrid rocket motor.
The accident is the second this week for a U.S. space company. On Tuesday, an

 Orbital Sciences Antares rocket exploded 15 seconds after liftoff from Wallops

 Island, Virginia, destroying a cargo ship bound for the International Space Station.
The crash is a major setback for Virgin Galactic, a U.S. offshoot of billionaire

 Branson's London-based Virgin Group. SpaceShipTwo, a six-passenger, two-pilot

 spacecraft is aiming to make the world's first commercial suborbital space flights.
Other companies developing passenger suborbital spacecraft include privately

 owned XCOR Aerospace, which is building a two-person spaceplane called Lynx

, and Blue Origin, a startup space company owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.
Virgin Galactic also plans to use its White Knight Two carrier jets to launch small

 satellites and payloads into orbit.
(Reporting by Irene Klotz; Editing by David Adams and James Dalgleish)

Why hasn’t Army’s report on Bowe Bergdahl been released?

An inquiry into the swap is complete, but no news until after 


FILE - This undated photo provided by the U.S. Army shows Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. House Republicans are pushing a resolution condemning President Barack Obama for failing to give 30-day notice to Congress about the exchange in May of American prisoner Bowe Bergdahl for five Taliban leaders. The House was expected to vote late Tuesday afternoon. (AP Photo/U.S. Army)
FILE - This undated photo provided by the U.S. Army shows Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl. House Republicans are pushing a resolution condemning President Barack Obama for failing to give 30-day notice to Congress about the exchange in May of American prisoner
The Army has apparently completed its investigation of the circumstances surrounding the suspected desertion of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, but no one expects to see the results before Tuesday’s elections. The last thing the Obama administration wants now is a round of attention to the sordid details of another public-relations disaster.
Sgt. Bergdahl, at the time a private, walked away from his base in Afghanistan in 2009 and spent nearly five years in Taliban captivity. His captors released him in May in exchange for five high-ranking Taliban terrorist commanders held at Guantanamo Bay. The Obama administration conducted the negotiations behind the back of Congress, and several soldiers who served with Sgt. Bergdahl, angry that the president traded five battle-hardened terrorists they had risked their lives to capture, said the sergeant had actually deserted his post. He may have gone looking for Taliban captors.
The Army has so far refused to release the report written by Brig. Gen. Kenneth Dahl, although it was completed weeks ago. Gen. Dahl earlier this month told The San Antonio Express-News that the document was being “reviewed by commanders.”
The Government Accountability Office’s nonpartisan legal analysts have already determined that the prisoner swap was illegal. Now there’s the possibility that Gen. Dahl concluded that Sgt. Bergdahl should be court-martialed, and this would further shine a bright light on President Obama’s incompetence and the ineptitude of his administration.
Other Guantanamo detainees released into the wild wasted little time getting back into their terrorist ways. As many as 30 former Guantanamo prisoners are thought to be fighting under the black flag of ISIS, Fox News reports.
Sgt. Bergdahl is waiting for the release of the Dahl report in a comfortable job behind a desk at U.S. Army North, Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston. A few hundred miles across the Rio Grande, Andrew Tahmooressi, 25, a former Marine sergeant, on Friday enters his eighth month in a squalid Mexican jail cell in Tijuana on trumped-up gun charges lodged against him after he missed an exit and drove into Mexico.
Mr. Obama has shown no interest in the incident. After 135,000 American signed a petition to the White House, asking for White House attention, Mr. Obama’s administration declined to get involved, citing the “incorruptibility” of Mexico’s judicial system. “We respect the rule of law,” an Obama minion wrote, “and expect the judicial process of sovereign nations to protect other U.S. citizens who might find themselves in similar circumstances in the future.”
Mr. Tahmooressi’s freedom wasn’t deemed worth, say, a swap of five Mexican drug lords held in U.S. prisons, or even another crate of Fast and Furious guns. Sometimes surprises are worth the wait, but we won’t know about this one until after next week — unless a whistleblower leaks a copy.

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Hillary, Michelle hit by hecklers at separate speeches

Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, right, campaigns for Maryland Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, left, during a rally at the University of Maryland, Thursday, Oct. 30, 2014, in College Park, Md. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
Former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, right, campaigns for Maryland Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown, left, during a rally at the University of Maryland, Thursday, Oct. 30, 2014, in College Park, Md. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

By Cheryl K. Chumley

First Hillary Clinton, then Michelle Obama. Both of the Democratic Party’s leading ladies were heckled while giving speeches at separate campaign events this week — not a good sign in the lead-up to an Election Day that’s already expected to go Republican.
The former secretary of state was repeatedly interrupted while campaigning for Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown in Maryland on Thursday, MSNBC reported.
She was speaking in favor of Mr. Brown’s candidacy when apparently, several in the crowd identified by MSNBC as immigration activists just couldn’t take any more of her talk. They repeatedly cut in to her remarks, trying to force her to explain her views of the DREAM Act, an amnesty program being pushed by Democrats.
“Immigration is an important issue,” Mrs. Clinton said in reply to the hecklers, the media outlet reported. “If you had just given me a minute, I would have gotten to the DREAM Act.”
Their shouts went on for some time, MSNBC reported, until her supporters in the crowd started chanting, “HillaryHillary!”
In all, Mrs. Clinton experienced three more waves of heckling interruptions during her speech, MSNBC said. Police tried to shut down the interruptions quickly by yanking the hecklers from the room.
Meanwhile, down the road in New Haven, Conn., Mrs. Obama was facing an unruly crowd of her own.
The first lady was delivering remarks at a local high school gymnasium to support Gov. Dan Malloy when a small protest broke out, shortly after she started speaking. A young woman repeatedly shouted that the first lady was a “dreamer” and called for her to back some pro-amnesty legislation, The Washington Post reported.
Mrs. Obama met the heckler head-on and shouted back: “We love you, babe. We really do,” The Washington Post said.
The heckler kept it up, though, forcing Mrs. Obama to step aside from her remarks for a moment to let the woman vent.
“I hear you sweetie. I will wait and let you finish,” Mrs. Obama said, The Washington Post reported. “I’m going to wait and let you finish, babe. I hear every word you’re saying.”
The crowd brought an end to the matter by chanting “four more years!” in support of Mr. Malloy, until the heckler quieted and Mrs. Obama resumed speaking.

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Hagel questions U.S. role in 'new world order'

SecDef sees leadership shifting in 'historic, defining times'

<> on October 29, 2014 in Washington, DC.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, left, at the Aspen Institute in Colorado


Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel was quoted Wednesday stating the world is experiencing “historic, defining times” that will result in a “new world order,” while questioning America’s role in the emerging world.

Unreported by media is that Hagel has a long history of using the phrase to advocate a global rebalancing through shared values, diplomacy and participation in international organizations.
Hagel’s latest use of the “new world order” phrase came at the Aspen Institute’s Washington Ideas Forum on Wednesday.
Hagel stated, “I think we are living through one of these historic, defining times. I think we are seeing a new world order, post-World War II, post-Soviet implosion, being built.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel
“Many questions about, first among the American people and our leaders, what’s the role of America in this new world that is evolving. Should we have a role? What is appropriate?”
Hagel is a fan of the “new world order” term. He said during a trip to Poland last May that “a new and early 21st century world order [is] being built.”
Three weeks prior to the trip, Hagel used the “new world order” term in a town hall meeting with Recruit Training Command School student instructors at Chicago’s Naval Station Great Lakes.
Hagel stated: “This is a time of great global transformation. We are seeing essentially a new world order evolving and being built. I don’t think we’ve seen such a time since right after World War II.
“And, again, the United States is an essential architect of this – of this process,” he added.
‘ You must question everything’
Last year, the Washington Post’s Bob Woodward quoted Hagel telling President Obama during a private meeting in 2009: “We are at a time where there is a new world order. We don’t control it. You must question everything, every assumption, everything they (the military and diplomats) tell you.”
In April 2013, Hagel told Israeli President Shimon Peres: “We are living through the defining of a new world order, and it’s still within our capability to do something about it.”
130214_obama_hagel_ap_605Hagel was reportedly referring to turmoil in the Middle East and worldwide.
Hagel again advocated the development of a “new world order” in a March 2010 talk at The Society of the Four Arts in Palm Beach, Florida. At the time, the former senator held no formal office.
“Our country’s future as well as the future of mankind in the world today is redefining itself,” the Palm Beach Daily News quoted Hagel as stating.
“We are experiencing a global reorientation. We are building, defining and framing a new world order.”
In December 2010, Hagel told delegates to the Congress of Cities & Exposition: “We are in the middle of building a new world order. We are defining a new time in the history of man.”
Hagel used the term in a September 2009 opinion piece published in the Washington Post titled,  “The Limits Of Force; Iraq and Afghanistan Aren’t Ours to Win or Lose.”
Wrote Hagel: “No country today has the power to impose its will and values on other nations. As the new world order takes shape, America must lead by building coalitions of common interests, as we did after World War II.”
‘Seamless networks’
Hagel’s new world order, as he describes it, encompasses an American “foreign policy underpinned by engagement – in other words, active diplomacy but not appeasement.”
01hagel2-articleLargeRegarding global engagement, Hagel said “the Obama administration, Congress and the Pentagon must get this right because it will frame the global architecture for the next generation.”
He called for global collaboration to build “seamless networks of intelligence gathering and sharing, and strengthening alliances, diplomatic cooperation, trade and development,” which he asserted “can make the biggest long-term difference and have the most lasting impact on building a more stable and secure world.”
In January 2008, the Washington Post reported Hagel took part in a bipartisan conference in Oklahoma “between moderate Republicans and moderate Democrats who seek to use ‘smart power’ to build a new world order.”
Hagel told the group: “Every one of us in this group this morning believes there are opportunities to turn things around for our country, our future, our children, the world.”
With research by Brenda J. Elliott.