Posts Tagged ‘Obama’
Iran was on the brink of an extraordinary political transformation on Saturday night after the moderate cleric Hassan Rouhani sensationally secured enough votes to succeed Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Rouhani’s victory delighted reformers who have been desperate for a return to the forefront of politics after eight acrimonious years under Ahmadinejad.
It will also lift the spirit of a nation suffering from its worst financial crisis for at least two decades as a result of the sanctions imposed by western powers in the dispute over its nuclear programme.
Rouhani, who favours a policy of political openness, as well as re-establishing relations with the west, is likely to soothe international tension. He has been described by western officials as an “experienced diplomat and politician” and “fair to deal with”.
Iran’s interior minister, Mostafa Mohammad-Najjar, announced on state television on Saturday night that 72% of 50 million eligible Iranians had voted, and Rohani had won just over the 50% of the vote required to avoid a runoff.
Rouhani, a PhD graduate from Glasgow Caledonian University and a former nuclear negotiator, has pledged to find a way out of the current stalemate over Iran’s nuclear programme, which is the cause of the sanctions crushing the economy.
Minutes after he was announced as the winner, thousands of jubilant campaigners and people across Iran poured into streets to celebrate. “Ahmadi Bye Bye”, chanted a large group in central Tehran, according to witnesses, in a reference to Ahmadinejad. Car horns were honking in larger streets in Tehran and Rouhani supporters chanted.
The Iranian currency, the rial, recovered in value against the dollar by at least 6% on Saturday. Later on Saturday night, Rouhani issued a statement on television, saying “a new season of solidarity” had begun following a result that brought “rationality and moderation” as well as “peace, stability and hope”…
The turnout for Friday’s vote was so high that polling stations stayed open for five hours longer than planned.
Speaking after casting his vote in Tehran, Khamenei had urged a mass turnout to rebut suggestions by American officials that the election enjoyed little legitimacy.
“I recently heard that someone at the US national security council said, ‘We do not accept this election in Iran’,” he said. “We don’t give a damn.”
All of the papier-mâché lovers of democracy from the UK to the US, from Cameron to Obama, have lined up to give advice. The best thing they could do – for a change – is keep their sticky fingers out of the pot of oil and natural gas that belongs to Iran and shut up for a change.
All prior blather about negotiating in good faith with Iran never came to pass. Just election-speak. Fact remains that even under the strictures of the Iranian theocracy, the turnout for the election was greater than anything Uncle Sugar has turned out in decades. A multi-party, multi-choice election unlike anything allowed in the United States.
Our new best buddies
The United States made plans to send arms to Syrian rebels several weeks ago, Obama administration sources told The Washington Post.
This week’s announcement shipments of rifles and ammunition would be funneled to the beleaguered rebels was based on new evidence the Syrian regime had gassed civilians; however, the Post said Saturday President Obama had ordered officials to start planning the supply operation in late April.
The internal debate boiled down to State Department diplomats who feared Syria — and the entire Middle East — was descending into chaos, and military officers and Obama political aides who were concerned about the complexity of the resupply mission and the ramifications of the U.S. involvement in another regional conflict.
Officials told the Post the CIA and other agencies had used the time well. Covert bases were established in Jordan and Turkey to handle the weapons transfers, and contacts were made with rebel leaders inside Syria…
The Post said the planned peace talks in Geneva this month were derailed by Assad’s recent successes on the battlefield. Sources said the negotiations would likely not begin before fall.
In the meantime, the United States will be trying to work out a deal with Russia that will somehow lead the way to a negotiated settlement between Assad and the rebels. Sources told the Post the Obama administration preferred a deal that would preserve Syria’s infrastructure and institutions rather than an outright overthrow of the government, which would create more chaos on the ground.
And everyone involved – of course – is prepared to listen to the wisdom in the White House, State Department and Congress after all the success we’ve had in bringing peace to the region over the past 65 years, eh?
Picking the time to announce Obama’s satisfaction with military analysis from spy agencies in England, France and Foggy Bottom was easy enough. The simple need to try to get Americans talking about anything other than the forgotten piece of paper we call the Bill of Rights works just fine inside the Beltway.
The individual responsible for one of the most significant leaks in US political history is Edward Snowden, a 29-year-old former technical assistant for the CIA and current employee of the defence contractor Booz Allen Hamilton. Snowden has been working at the National Security Agency for the last four years as an employee of various outside contractors, including Booz Allen and Dell.
The Guardian, after several days of interviews, is revealing his identity at his request. From the moment he decided to disclose numerous top-secret documents to the public, he was determined not to opt for the protection of anonymity. “I have no intention of hiding who I am because I know I have done nothing wrong,” he said…
In a note accompanying the first set of documents he provided, he wrote: “I understand that I will be made to suffer for my actions,” but “I will be satisfied if the federation of secret law, unequal pardon and irresistible executive powers that rule the world that I love are revealed even for an instant.”
Despite his determination to be publicly unveiled, he repeatedly insisted that he wants to avoid the media spotlight. “I don’t want public attention because I don’t want the story to be about me. I want it to be about what the US government is doing…”
On May 20, he boarded a flight to Hong Kong, where he has remained ever since. He chose the city because “they have a spirited commitment to free speech and the right of political dissent”, and because he believed that it was one of the few places in the world that both could and would resist the dictates of the US government…
Once he reached the conclusion that the NSA’s surveillance net would soon be irrevocable, he said it was just a matter of time before he chose to act. “What they’re doing” poses “an existential threat to democracy”, he said.
“I carefully evaluated every single document I disclosed to ensure that each was legitimately in the public interest,” he said. “There are all sorts of documents that would have made a big impact that I didn’t turn over, because harming people isn’t my goal. Transparency is.”
He purposely chose, he said, to give the documents to journalists whose judgment he trusted about what should be public and what should remain concealed.
As for his future…he views his best hope as the possibility of asylum, with Iceland – with its reputation of a champion of internet freedom – at the top of his list. He knows that may prove a wish unfulfilled.
But after the intense political controversy he has already created with just the first week’s haul of stories, “I feel satisfied that this was all worth it. I have no regrets.”
Lots more in the article. A worthwhile read – to aid in understanding the processes that brought Ed Snowden to these conclusions. Watch the whole video up top. He’s bright, articulate, obviously he has been thinking about the hows and why of such a decision for a long time.
I wish him well. He’s done our nation, our democratic traditions, a service.
Profiles in courage comes to mind. For these 23 – not those who voted YES.
Not the White House. Not President Barack Obama.
Who’s the coward? The gun nut sending poison through the mail – or Mike Bloomberg who ain’t running away from a fight?
Deadly threats will not prevent New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg from pursuing tighter gun laws, the outspoken gun control advocate said Thursday after anonymous letters addressed to him tested positive for ricin.
“The letter was obviously referring to our anti-gun efforts, but there’s 12,000 people who are going to get killed this year with guns,” Bloomberg said. “We’re not going to walk away from those efforts.”
U.S. Secret Service also confirmed on Thursday that the White House mail screening facility intercepted a separate letter addressed to the White House that was similar to the letters previously addressed to Bloomberg…
Tests conducted on Wednesday confirmed two anonymous threatening letters sent to Bloomberg and Mark Glaze, director of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, contained the presence of ricin. The poison, which can be a white powder or orange liquid, is found naturally in castor beans. It can be fatal for up to 72 hours.
“What’s in this letter is nothing compared to what I’ve got planned for you,” the anonymous person wrote in the letter sent to Bloomberg. “You’ll have to kill me and my family before you get my guns…blah, blah, blah!
Law enforcement sources said the letters were postmarked May 20 from Shreveport, La.
The letter to Bloomberg was opened on Sunday and the letter to Glaze was opened on Friday. Bloomberg’s letter was intercepted at a mail sorting facility in Manhattan, and Glaze’s letter was encountered at Washington, D.C., offices. Everyone who came into contact with the letters was unharmed.
“I’m not angry. There are people who I would argue do things that may be irrational, do things that are wrong,” Bloomberg said. “But it’s a very complex world out there, and we just have to deal with that.”
Bloomberg is way too forgiving. I don’t mind laying a bit of understanding on the woefully ignorant who populate, say, the Tea Party or line up at the American Legion bar on Friday night to tell war stories. But, the criminal arrogance of cowards who fear democracy so much they resort to attempted murder deserve no sympathy.
Lock ‘em up and throw away the key.
It’s been dubbed the most expensive prison on Earth and President Barack Obama cited the cost this week as one of many reasons to shut down the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, which burns through some $900,000 per prisoner annually.
The Pentagon estimates it spends about $150 million each year to operate the prison and military court system at the U.S. Naval Base in Cuba, which was set up 11 years ago to house foreign terrorism suspects.
With 166 inmates currently in custody, that amounts to an annual cost of $903,614 per prisoner.
By comparison, super-maximum security prisons in the United States spend about $60,000 to $70,000 at most to house their inmates, analysts say.
And the average cost across all federal prisons is about $30,000, they say.
The high cost was just one reason Obama cited when he returned this week to an unfulfilled promise to close the prison and said he would try again.
Obama…said that the prison, set up under his Republican predecessor George W. Bush and long the target of criticism by rights groups and foreign governments, is a stain on the reputation of the United States.
‘It’s extremely inefficient,’ said Ken Gude, chief of staff and vice president at the liberal Center for American Progress think tank, who has followed developments at Guantanamo Bay since 2005.
‘That … may be what finally gets us to actually close the prison. I mean the costs are astronomical, when you compare them to what it would cost to detain somebody in the United States,’ Gude said…
Obama pledged to close the prison within a year after first taking office in January 2009 but his efforts ran aground, partly because of congressional opposition, from both Republicans and some in his own Democratic Party, to transferring prisoners to the United States.
Inmates started a hunger strike in February that has swelled to some 100 prisoners and has led to force-feeding of 23 of the prisoners.
With the camp back under a critical spotlight, Obama told a news conference on Tuesday he would renew efforts to shut it down. He has an array of options, some of which would be more achievable than others…
Above the annual operating cost, capital spending on the prison could rise again if the Pentagon receives the funding it says it needs to renovate the place.
General John Kelly, the head of Southern Command, which is responsible for Guantanamo, told a House of Representatives panel in March that he needed some $170 million to improve the facilities for troops stationed at the base as part of detention operations.
Kelly said the living conditions were ‘pretty questionable’ and told the panel, ‘We need to take care of our troops.’
Or we could act like we have functional brains – put the convicted into mainland supermax prisons, send the unconvictable, unindicted back to their home countries or a helpful surrogate country and go back to at least a pretense of being a law-abiding civilized nation. Close down Gitmo and give the land back to the Cubans.
In yet another scathing critique of government health officials, a federal judge has refused to stay his order making emergency contraceptives available to consumers of all ages without a prescription.
Calling government efforts to restrict the sale of drugs such as Plan B “frivolous and taken for the purpose of delay,” U.S. District Judge Edward R. Korman of New York wrote that the medications would be available to all unless the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals ruled otherwise by noon Eastern time on Monday…
In a 17-page ruling, Korman said the actions of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius were in “bad faith” and “politically motivated,” and that government lawyers were functioning in “an alternate reality” when they requested the stay.
Korman wrote that Sebelius lacked “any medical or scientific expertise” and that she undermined the nation’s drug approval process when she overruled a decision by the Food and Drug Administration to allow the drug to be sold to everyone without a prescription.
“The FDA is not the problem,” Korman wrote. “The cause of the rejection of over-the-counter sale of … emergency contraceptives was the secretary of Health and Human Services.”
Nancy Northup, president of the Center for Reproductive Rights, the New York-based advocacy group that is the plaintiff in the case, welcomed the order.
“Judge Korman’s sound ruling simply orders the government to do what the experts at FDA have been trying to do for years: to put politics aside and let science guide us to a policy that makes emergency contraception readily accessible to all women when they need it most urgently,” she said in a statement.
A quasi-liberal administration which ignores scientific fact to bolster their political cowardice ain’t offering anymore service to the citizens of this nation than the conservative and reactionary thugs that want the same backasswards regulations behind the same or slightly differing myths.
Nice to see a judge stand up to hacks and quacks for a change. Not that I’m confident the decision will stand. This ain’t a nation operating with a whole boatload of political courage, nowadays.
“I don’t care if Bush said he’d let you plant this to poppies…Michelle won’t allow it.”
The C.I.A.’s station chief here met with President Hamid Karzai on Saturday, and the Afghan leader said he had been assured that the agency would continue dropping off stacks of cash at his office despite a storm of criticism that has erupted since the payments were disclosed.
The C.I.A. money, Mr. Karzai told reporters, was “an easy source of petty cash,” and some of it was used to pay off members of the political elite, a group dominated by warlords.
The use of the C.I.A. cash for payoffs has prompted criticism from many Afghans and some American and European officials, who complain that the agency, in its quest to maintain access and influence at the presidential palace, financed what is essentially a presidential slush fund. The practice, the officials say, effectively undercut a pillar of the American war strategy: the building of a clean and credible Afghan government to wean popular support from the Taliban.
Instead, corruption at the highest levels seems to have only worsened. The International Monetary Fund recently warned diplomats in Kabul that the Afghan government faced a potentially severe budget shortfall partly because of the increasing theft of customs duties and officially abetted tax evasion…
…Mr. Karzai, in offering his most detailed accounting to date of how the money had been used, probably raised as many questions as he answered…Formal aid, for instance, is publicly accounted for and audited. The C.I.A.’s cash is not, though Mr. Karzai did say the Americans were given receipts for the money they dropped off at the presidential palace.
Asked why money that was used for what would appear to be justifiable governing and charitable expenses was handed over secretly by the C.I.A. and not routed publicly through the State Department, Mr. Karzai replied: “This is cash. It is the choice of the U.S. government.”
He added, “If tomorrow the State Department decides to give us such cash, I’d welcome that, too.”
Mr. Karzai declined to specify how much cash his office received each month, or how much it had been given by the C.I.A. so far. At his meeting with the station chief, it was made clear to him that “we are not allowed to disclose” the amount, he said…
The American Embassy in Kabul, which handles queries for the C.I.A., declined to comment.
Heartwarming to note that American foreign policy hasn’t especially changed since the days of John Foster Dulles and Dean Rusk. Corruption is closer akin to the White House and Congress than anything offered by sovereign democracy.
The number of detainees taking part in a hunger strike at the US-run Guantanamo Bay military prison has grown to 77, an increase of 25 in just the past few days, according to a US military spokesman.
Lieutenant Colonel Samuel House said in a statement that of the detainees refusing food, 17 are receiving “enteral feedings,” a process involving being force-fed via tubes.
Five of the inmates have been admitted to hospital, although none faces “life-threatening conditions,” House said…
The hunger strikers are protesting against their incarceration without charge or trial at Guantanamo over the past 11 years.
“They say they want their freedom,” Al Jazeera’s Rosiland Jordan, reporting from Washington, said. “Or they’ll die trying to get it…”
Al Jazeera journalist Sami al-Haj, who spent six years at the Guantanamo Bay prison, said: “They used dogs on us, they beat me, sometimes they hung me from the ceiling and didn’t allow me to sleep for six days.”
Brandon Neely, a US Military Policeman and former Guantanamo guard, told Al Jazeera that detainees were “treated horribly”.
Neely said he regularly watched detainees being beaten and humiliated, as well as watching a medic beat an inmate.
Despite an order in 2011 by Barack Obama, the US president, to close Guantanamo down by the end of that year, there are no current plans to shut the prison.
American politicians all seem bound by a system of ethics which denies culpability, rejects responsibility for their actions – especially when they violate laws they otherwise praise. Passing the buck has become the number one sport inside the Beltway.