I am excited. Today a FedEx truck will come up my driveway bringing a 15 pound box that found its way from Japan to Louisiana to Memphis to Banjoville. Inside that box is a chrome Piccolo Saori Loom that I have been slowly making layaway payments towards since Thanksgiving.
It is a little loom but it has super big possibilities…
You may remember my big Glimakra countermarche loom is broken down and packed away in storage.
Ugh, all over “away in storage.” The loom is too big anyway to fit in the house we are living in now, so this baby should be perfect.
Under the moonlit sky,
people enjoy dancing,
casting shadows of different shapes.
Misao goes on to say that the haiku:
…implies that once born in the world, we are destined to live different lives.
She grew up following others and had become one of the majority. It was not until it finally hit her and she:
…became aware of the importance of developing a path of my own. I crawled up against a stream and found a beautiful flower garden unfolded before me. In that flower garden I learned that kansei* is inherent in everyone.
kansei*- Misao Jo use of word “meant the significance of an intuitive sense of beauty existing inside of us.”
All flowers are beautiful, even though each individual flower is different in form and color. Because of this difference, “all are good”. Because everything has the same life, life cannot be measured by a yardstick. It is this individuality that makes everything meaningful and the uniqueness of each thread that creates the tapestry of life.
Misao Jo, Founder of SAORI
So…that should give you enough information on this new path I am starting on. If you would like to see some pictures of woven Saori, look here:
More images here: Weaving Saori and Around the World Weaving on Pinterest
Okay, the rest of today’s post will be your usual newsy stuff…after the jump of course. Oh, and the pictures, woodblock, painting you see are various Japanese artwork featuring weaving or spinning. (That includes the tattooed women! Tattooing among Japan’s Ainu people .)
Winter weather continues to dominate my world. I was all ready to go out for groceries yesterday when I looked outside and saw snow coming down. Sigh . . .
We’ve got a couple of inches on the ground now–not a big deal except that there are two more storms on the way. We get one day’s respite, and then a big storm on Wednesday (5-9 in.) and a nor’easter coming on Saturday.
The storm we’re getting tomorrow is already impacting the plains states of Oklahoma and Kansas and the Midwest. If you’re in its path, you’d best stay inside and find some indoor activities to keep you occupied–like reading a good book or surfing the internet. Speaking of which, let’s see what’s in the news today.
Here’s some good news from Talking Points Memo: Obama Persuades Dems To Back Off Iran Sanctions, Give Peace A Chance.
Senate Democrats came close to blowing up President Barack Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran by toying with a new sanctions bill that negotiators cautioned would poison talks.
But in recent days it has become clear that they’re going to hold off, after aggressive lobbying from the White House, as diplomatic negotiators’ attempt to turn an interim six-month deal struck last November into something more permanent. The goal is to get Iran to surrender its nuclear weapons capabilities in exchange for relief from a swath of economically devastating sanctions….
Legislation to beef up sanctions on Iran, authored by Senate Foreign Relations Chair Bob Menendez (D-NJ), has a whopping 58 additional sponsors, 15 of which are Democrats. Criticism of the interim deal from Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu and AIPAC, the pro-Israel lobbying group, boosted the bill. But in the last three weeks, numerous Democrats have backed away and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has said he’ll wait to see how negotiations play out before considering the sanctions bill.
Obama, Kerry and their top aides pulled Democrats back from the brink by making their opposition to any sort of new sanctions bill clear in a series of public remarks and private face-to-face meetings with top senators. They’ve warned that bringing up a sanctions bill amid talks would empower the hard-liners in Iran, making it politically untenable for President Hassan Rouhani to cut a long-term deal. They’ve conveyed their strong belief that pushing sanctions legislation at this pivotal moment would only increase the chances of a war, according to sources familiar with the matter.
It’s too bad that Obama has to deal not only with Republicans trying to undermine his initiatives, but also with Democrats who seem to be more concerned with what Israel wants then what is best for the U.S.
Recently the Navy has been caught up in a scandal involving “nuclear force officers” caught cheating on proficiency tests. According to Fox News:
Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said Thursday the number of nuclear force officers implicated in a proficiency test cheating scandal has grown to 92 out of a force of 500.
James spoke to reporters after touring nuclear bases around the country, which The Associated Press has revealed suffers from such low morale and burnout that they have committed serious security lapses other breakdowns.
James, who is new to the job, said the nuclear force is beset by “undue stress and fear,” and said the nuclear force suffers “systemic problems.”
Today we’re learning of a serious fraud scandal in the Army. The Washington Post reports: Army probes allegations of fraud by recruiters and others in enlistment referral program.
Army criminal investigators are probing the actions of more than 1,200 individuals who collected suspect payouts totaling more than $29 million, according to officials who were briefed on the preliminary findings of the investigation and would discuss them only on the condition of anonymity. More than 200 officers are suspected of involvement, including two generals and dozens of colonels.
The alleged fraud drew in recruiters, soldiers and civilians with ties to the military who submitted, or profited from, false referrals registered on a Web site run by a marketing firm the Army hired to run the program. Suspects often obtained the names of people who had enlisted from recruiters, claimed them as their referrals, and then kicked back some of the bonus money to the recruiters.
The abuse is feared to be so widespread that Army investigators do not expect to conclude all audits and investigations before the fall of 2016.
But there are even more scandals. At the National Journal, Sara Sorcher and Jordain Carney offer A Pocket Guide to the Military’s Many Scandals to help us keep score.
Quite a bit more has come out about the death of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman. The New York Daily News is now reporting that 70 bags of heroin and numerous prescription drugs were found in the Greenwich Village apartment he was living in had been living in.
Seventy glassine baggies of heroin packed for individual sale — at least 50 of them unopened — were discovered in the $10,000-a-month rental where the Oscar-winning actor was found dead Sunday with a needle stuck in his left arm, sources said.
Some of the envelopes had the words “Ace of Spades” written on them, and others were stamped with the name “Ace of Hearts.” Both are brands of heroin that are often cut with a powerful pain reliever called fentanyl, and have become a plague in Pennsylvania, where they were used in 22 overdose deaths.
Police are now trying to learn where Hoffman got the drugs.
Apparently Hoffman had gotten sober when he was 22 years old. He told 60 minutes interviewer Steve Kroft in 2006 that he stopped drinking and drugging because he was “panicked for my life,” and that there were “things I wanted to do” and he wouldn’t be able to do them if he kept on the way he was going. Reportedly Hoffman stayed clean and sober for 23 years, until he began using again in 2013. He checked himself into a brief rehab program last May, but he had been struggling to stay straight since then.
As a recovering alcoholic and addict who has been sober more than 30 years, it’s very difficult for me to read about this. When I went into treatment at age 33, I met people who had been sober for more than 20 years and then drank again. It’s hard to believe, but the disease never goes away no matter how many years go by. And they say if you use again, the results will be much worse than when you quit. It sounds like once Hoffman went back to the drugs, he simply couldn’t stop. Although I am one of the fortunate people who have never had a desire to drink again after I quit, I know it still could happen to me. No recovering person is immune.
Last link on Hoffman: CNN pieced together a timeline of his last couple of days. Some friends said he seemed fine, but his ex-partner told police he seemed high the day before he died. Read more details at the link.
There’s been quite a bit of talk lately about Woody Allen’s creepy interest in young girls, after his adopted daughter Dylan wrote an open letter to The New York Times about her childhood experiences with the famous actor and director. Frankly, I believe her, but as usual many powerful people like Barbara Walters are defending Allen and suggesting that Dylan is either lying or reporting false memories. Of course, these people must ignore the facts that when 7-year-old Dylan first spoke up, Allen had been in therapy for two years for his inappropriate behavior toward her and that the prosecutor in the case found probable cause to charge Allen but felt that Dylan was too fragile to handle a trial. Read the decision in Allen v. Farrow here.
For anyone interested in this case, I recommend reading two long Vanity Fair articles by Maureen Orth–From 1992, Mia’s Story and a follow-up from 2013, Mama Mia! I also want to point to some circumstantial evidence. Of course we all know that Allan began having sex with Mia Farrow’s adopted daughter Soon-Yi Previn when she was barely out of high school; but I didn’t realized until yesterday that Allen’s movie Manhattan was based on a sexual relationship he had with a high school girl when she was 17 and he was in his 40s. Predictably, the girl, Stacey Nelkin is defending Woody Allen today.
…on Monday evening “Piers Morgan Live” welcomed Stacey Nelkin for an exclusive, primetime interview.
Having dated Allen as a teenager, when she was 35 years his junior, Nelkin remains skeptical of the statements penned by Dylan Farrow, who is alleging to have been molested by her adoptive father as a seven-year-old. To Monday’s guest, the latest claims are simply an extension of the ugly separation between Allen, and Dylan’s adoptive mother, Mia Farrow:
“These accusations came on the heels of a horrible custody battle, Mia being extremely upset, hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, and she was hell-bent and determined to destroy something that he loved,” said Nelkin, who insisted her own relationship with Allen was entirely consensual and not corrupt in the least. “Woody loved Dylan. We were in contact at the time, and he would talk about her a lot. He loved the kids that they had adopted together, and she took Dylan away by creating this whole scenario.”
Maybe Nelkin is hoping Allen will finally acknowledge her and give her a part. She had a small role in Annie Hall, but here performance was left on the cutting room floor. How would Nelkin know what is true–I wonder if she knows that Woody was having sex with Soon-Yi while he was adopting his two children with Mia Farrow?
One more bit of circumstantial evidence from a 1976 People article about Woody Allen’s neuroses:
Woody will admit now only to “dating around” and living with girls for stretches ranging from “two days to two weeks—if you call that living together.” Could he possibly have mellowed from the days when his movies rated horniness as a human malaise second only to bubonic plague? “I try to have sex only with women I like a lot,” Woody explains solemnly. “Otherwise I find it fairly mechanical.” (He has little interest in family life: “It’s no accomplishment to have or raise kids. Any fool can do it.”)
He goes on: “I’m open-minded about sex. I’m not above reproach; if anything, I’m below reproach. I mean, if I was caught in a love nest with 15 12-year-old girls tomorrow, people would think, yeah, I always knew that about him.” Allen pauses. “Nothing I could come up with would surprise anyone,” he ventures helplessly. “I admit to it all.”
Okay, enough about the problems and perversions of movie stars. Did you hear about the man who claims he survived being adrift in a boat for more than a year? BBC News:
“I want to get back to Mexico,” Jose Salvador Albarengo reportedly said as he was taken to the islands’ capital, Majuro, for a medical examination.
Mr Albarengo said he left Mexico with a friend for a trip in a fibre-glass boat in December 2012.
He was found by people living on the island of Ebon Atoll on Thursday.
He had initially identified himself to authorities as Jose Ivan.
The castaway told the local deputy US ambassador Norman Barth, who was acting as an interpreter for Marshall Islands authorities, that he was originally from El Salvador, but had been living in Mexico for 15 years before his epic voyage.
Alvarenga, who said he got lost after a shark fishing trip off the coast of Mexico in December 2012, said he survived 13 months drifting in the Pacific Ocean by eating fish, birds and turtles, a representative at the Washington D.C. Embassy of the Republic of the Marshall Islands told ABCNews.com.
The man also scooped up little fish that swam alongside his drifting boat and ate them raw, while also drinking bird blood to quench his thirst, Thomas Armbruster, U.S. Ambassador to the Marshall Islands, told the Associated Press.
Alvarenga told officials he is from El Salvador but had been living and working in Mexico as a fisherman for 15 years before his ordeal.
In December 2012, Alvarenga said he left Mexico in a 23-foot fiber glass boat with a teenage companion named Ezekiel for what was supposed to be a day trip of fishing, the ambassador said.
A storm blew their boat off course, Armbruster said, and caused them to become disoriented and adrift. He said the castaway told him Ezekiel died a month later.
Who knows if it’s true?
Now it’s your turn. What stories have captured your interest today? Please post your links in the comment thread.
I spent yesterday preparing for Winter Storm Electra. I stopped by the hardware store to get ice melt crystals and then headed to the grocery store to drop off a prescription and a few things I’ll need in case I can’t get my car out of the driveway for a couple of days.
I had an appointment in the afternoon, and then I made a fruitless attempt to find a parking space in the giant Whole Foods parking lot in Cambridge. Then back to my regular grocery store to pick up my prescription and a few refrigerated items. The store was even more packed this time, so I was glad I had stopped earlier. Finally, I went home, to stash my purchases and scatter ice melt on the all the icy surfaces left over from Winter Storm Dion.
So now I’m in hibernation mode until Monday. I just hope I can handle the shoveling myself. The weather folks are predicting anything from 5 to 12 inches of snow for my area. It was 11 degrees here when I woke up and its only 12 degrees right now. It’s hard to believe it can even snow when it’s so cold. But the weather people say it’s going to snow. If it starts this afternoon, I plan to shovel before it gets dark–then there won’t be so much to do tomorrow. It’s way too early for this. It won’t even be officially winter until next week. Those of you in the Midwest are probably already getting the storm–how is it going there? Is it still cold down South? We can commiserate in the comments.
Now to the news. It’s hard to believe it’s been a year since Newtown, but today is the anniversary of that awful day. It still breaks my heart when I think about it. I can’t even begin to imagine the pain of the families who lost children. From CNN:
Horror struck Newtown, Connecticut, in such a disturbing way that the nation still struggles with its impact a year later.
The legacy of the second-deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history is so profound that it cannot hold just one meaning. It holds several. That’s because the crime itself conveys multiple issues in its summary:
A mentally ill 20-year-old recluse obsessed with school shootings enters Sandy Hook Elementary School after the morning bell and kills six adult women, 12 girls and eight boys in 11 minutes. The children were 6 or 7 years old. The heavily armed Adam Lanza, who first killed his mother before taking her car to the school, also killed himself, in a classroom.
On the anniversary of the December 14 slaughter — under the shadow of another school shooting, this time at Arapahoe High School in Centennial, Colorado — country and community alike pause and reflect on an event known simply as “Newtown” or “Sandy Hook” and what it says about America on the matters of guns, mental health, healing, and the human spirit.
Not a single federal law curbing gun violence has passed in the year since a young man from Newtown, Conn. who’d long exhibited signs of mental instability got a hold of his mother’s AR-15-style Bushmaster rifle and two of her handguns and gunned down 20 first-graders and six of their educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School before taking his own life.
Capping a year that saw the most mass shootings in U.S. history, Newtown seemed to mark a turning point in national conversation about gun control. Within a month of the shooting, President Obama - promising to make the issue a hallmark of his second-term agenda - had signed several executive orders to make schools safer and gun purchases more transparent. But real reform, he said, would require bipartisan backing from lawmakers on Capitol Hill.
Six months after the Dec. 14, 2012 tragedy, Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., insisted the push for tougher gun laws and bolstered support for mental health in America was “still on the front burner.” But foundation for that statement was flimsy.
Manchin’s own amendment to strengthen background checks for gun purchases – co-sponsored by Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Pa., and seen by many in Congress to be the most realistic hope for immediate reform to gun laws – had collapsed in the Senate two months earlier. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., had “hit pause” on debate over firearms altogether, pulling the legislation from the floor indefinitely.
The emotions surrounding Newtown, it seemed, were no longer driving the conversation about gun control.
Is anyone really surprised that something a huge majority of Americans support cannot get through Congress? Of course not. We can’t even get them to stop hurting the economy with their obsessive and idiotic push for unnecessary austerity. We should turn every one of them out of office–Democrats and Republicans and start from scratch.
And is anyone shocked that there was another school shooting the day before this horrible anniversary? Why should we be? Our so-called leaders don’t seem to care how many children die so they can keep getting donations from the NRA. A couple of stories on the shooting in Colorado.
Denver Post as of last night: Shooting at Arapahoe High School, 1 girl in critical condition, gunman dead.
A student carried a shotgun into Arapahoe High School, asked where to find a specific teacher and then opened fire on Friday, Arapahoe County Sheriff Grayson Robinson said. He shot a fellow student in the head before apparently killing himself.
A 15-year-old girl was reported in critical condition after undergoing surgery. Two other students were treated and released from a hospital for non-gunshot injuries.
The gunman, identified as 18-year-old Karl Pierson, was found dead inside a classroom from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound, Robinson said. Authorities believe he acted alone.
Robinson said authorities are investigating reports that Pierson may have been motivated by revenge against the teacher following a disagreement….Fellow classmates described the gunman as a bright student and a gifted debater whose family attended Bible study meetings.
The shootings — on the eve of the anniversary of the Newtown school massacre, in which 20 students and six staffers were murdered — sent scores of terrified students and staffers at Centennial’s Arapahoe High School scurrying at about 12:30 p.m. Police and other first responders quickly mobilized to surround the 2,220-student school.
A 15-year-old girl suffered a gunshot wound and was reported in critical condition at a Littleton hospital Friday evening.One other student suffered minor gunshot-related injuries and was released from the hospital hours later, authorities said. Arapahoe County Sheriff Grayson Robinson said Friday night that another girl taken to a hospital was covered in blood from the other student, but wasn’t injured….
The gunman also brought two Molotov cocktails inside the school and exploded one, KUSA-TV reported. The other was found and removed by the bomb squad.
The incident unfolded when the armed student entered the west side of the school from a student parking lot. He told other students he was interested in confronting a specific teacher. “Word got around immediately,” Robinson said.
The teacher, informed of the situation, fled the building unharmed, said Robinson, who noted that the teacher’s decision to flee helped limit the potential carnage.
Our children are dying violently in this country, in places in which they should be safe–their schools and their homes. Why aren’t we doing anything to protect them? At an age when they should be concentrating on learning, developing social skills, and just having fun, our children are threatened by gun violence on a daily basis. What kind of nation allows this kind of slaughter to continue in the name of “second amendment rights” and greed? A few more links from around the ‘net:
Star-Tribune Nation: In Newtown, a year of wrenching reminders
Matthew Lysiak at The Guardian: We can no longer allow sick individuals like Adam Lanza to go on untreated
New York Daily News: Another year of the gun
Gawker: What Kind of Monster Wants to Shoot Up His School? (highly recommended)
In other news,
Here’s a surprising story from Jonthan Turley’s blog: Federal Court Strikes Down Criminalization of Polygamy In Utah
It is with a great pleasure this evening to announce that decision of United States District Court judge Clarke Waddoups striking down key portions of the Utah polygamy law as unconstitutional. The Brown family and counsel have spent years in both the criminal phase of this case and then our challenge to the law itself in federal court. Despite the public statements of professors and experts that we could not prevail in this case, the court has shown that it is the rule of law that governs in this country. As I have previously written, plural families present the same privacy and due process concerns faced by gay and lesbian community over criminalization. With this decision, families like the Browns can now be both plural and legal in the state of Utah. The Court struck down the provision as violating both the free exercise clause of the first amendment as well as the due process clause. The court specifically struck down language criminalizing cohabitation — the provision that is used to prosecute polygamists. The opinion is over 90 pages and constitutes a major constitutional ruling in protection of individual rights.
I just don’t know what to say about this, because I associate polygamy with the abuse of women and children. Am I a bigot? A couple more links:
Salt Lake Tribune: Federal judge declares Utah polygamy law unconstitutional
I haven’t been following the Robert Levinson story, but I will be from now on. Levinson has been missing in Iran for 7 years and has just been outed as a CIA operative. Links:
The Register-Guard: White House declines to discuss missing American Robert Levinson’s CIA ties
Those are my offerings today. What stories are you following? Let us know in the comment thread, and have a great weekend!
Don’t blame Dakinikat for the lateness of this post. I volunteered to fill in for her today and then I ended up oversleeping.
I stayed up too late watching the New England Patriots come from behind to beat the Denver Broncos on Sunday Night Football. I had pretty much given up on the Pats at halftime when they were down 24-0. But once again Patriots quarterback Tom Brady rallied his team and once again showed Peyton Manning who’s boss.
Cindy Boren sums up what happened at The Washington Post:
For most of the country, Sunday night was cold. It’s the gateway to a big holiday week and, with the Denver Broncos blowing out the hapless New England Patriots on Sunday night, why not just turn in early?
Here’s the abbreviated version of what happened while you were sleeping: Trailing 24-0 at halftime, Tom Brady and the Patriots scored 31 points in the second half, the Broncos scored to tie it and, with Bill Belichick making another of his unusual coaching decisions, the Patriots won 34-31 on a field goal that came off a turnover on a muffed punt with time running out in overtime. But it was a decision by Belichick that set up the Patriots. After winning the OT coin toss, he chose to take the wind — a stiff, brutally cutting wind — in a move that even his captains questioned.
There was a fierce wind blowing in the Boston area all day yesterday. It was coach Bill Belichick’s decision to give the ball to the Broncos, forcing Manning to either throw into the wind or and the ball off. It worked, and the Pats ended up winning on a field goal. It was incredible–only the fifth time in history a team has come back from 24 down at the half to win a game.
So, that’s my excuse for being late with the morning post. I know you’re probably not impressed . . .
Of course the weather here in New England is just a minor annoyance compared to much of the rest of the country. CNN reports: Nasty weather wallops much of U.S. just before Thanksgiving.
The wicked wintry weather that pummeled the West Coast is now barreling across the country, threatening to wreck millions of holiday travel plans just before Thanksgiving.
The storm has already contributed to at least 10 traffic fatalities.
Nearly 400 flights have been canceled in the Dallas-Fort Worth area — not exactly a bastion for snowstorms. Sleet and freezing rain will keep blanketing parts of the Southern Plains and Southern Rockies on Monday.
New Mexico may be hit with 8 inches of snow!
And it’s headed our way next:
And after the storm deluges parts of the South with rain Monday evening, it’ll start zeroing in on the Northeast, the National Weather Service said. And that could spell more travel nightmares….
An Arctic air mass will probably keep temperatures 15 to 20 degrees below normal along the East Coast through Thursday. But even if the system fails to deliver heavy snow, fierce winds could still hamper air travel, forecasters said….
Heavy rain is expected to fall from Texas to Georgia on Monday and over the Carolinas on Monday night, with some sleet and snow mixed in for northern parts of that swath. The heaviest rain is expected across parts of Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida and South Carolina.
So be careful out there–especially you Sky Dancers in the southern half of the country.
In political news, the big story is the deal that the Obama administration has struck with Iran. Israel doesn’t like it one bit, and that means there will be objections in Congress. From Bloomberg via the SF Chronicle:
Israel’s rejection of the accord reached in Geneva by Iran and six leading nations over the weekend was swift. The agreement is a “historic mistake” that leaves the world “a much more dangerous place, because the most dangerous regime in the world has taken a significant step toward attaining the most dangerous weapon,” Netanyahu said.
The first accord since the Iranian nuclear program came under international scrutiny in 2003 eases sanctions on Iran in return for concessions on its atomic work. Its six-month timetable is meant to give negotiators time to seek a comprehensive deal to halt Iranian nuclear work that they, like Israel, think is a cover to build weapons.
Israel will now focus on influencing the final deal as much as they possibly can.
“What Israel can do during this period is push the international community toward making the final deal as tough as it can, though it should do so far more quietly than it has in the past,” said Eilam, a retired brigadier-general.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told CBS News in Geneva that the agreement doesn’t take the threat of force off the table and rejected Israel’s position, articulated yesterday by Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, that the U.S. capitulated to Iranian deceit.
The agreement is “not based on trust. It’s based on verification,” with mechanisms in place to confirm whether Iran is in compliance, he said.
Kerry actually used many Congresspeople’s opposition to loosening sanctions on Iran to push the Iranians to make a deal. From Bloomberg Businessweek:
When Secretary of State John Kerry joined the nuclear negotiations at the Intercontinental Hotel in Geneva last Saturday, he employed the oldest negotiating trick in the book, evoking Congress as the bad cop to the Obama administration’s good cop. Kerry told Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif that if they failed to reach an agreement that day, the Obama administration would be unable to prevent Congress from passing additional sanctions against Iran. Less than 24 hours later, Kerry and Zarif walked into the hotel lobby to announce that they had struck a deal to temporarily freeze Iran’s nuclear program.
In the face of criticism from members of Congress and the U.S.’s allies in the Middle East, Administration officials have insisted that the Geneva agreement is just the first step toward a more far-reaching disarmament deal. But such a deal will require that the Obama administration promise not just to forestall the imposition of new sanctions, but to dramatically reduce the sanctions already in place. And that depends on the cooperation of a Congress that has been singularly uninterested in assuming the role of good cop in the showdown with Iran.
The White House has some discretion to rescind the Iran sanctions without Congress’s approval. The method for removing any given set of sanctions depends on how those sanctions were passed in the first place. If they’re the product of an executive order, as many of the existing sanctions against Iran are, removing them requires only that the White House decide to stop enforcing them. That’s exactly how Obama will be making good on its promise to Iran, as part of last week’s interim agreement, to restore access to $7 billion held in foreign bank accounts….Removing sanctions that have been passed into law by Congress, however, is a much more difficult challenge. Despite the partisan gridlock in gridlock in Washington over the last several years, bipartisan majorities have managed to cooperate on three separate rounds of sanctions since 2010, including measures targeting Iran’s central bank, which Iran will undoubtedly want rescinded. Removing those laws from the books will force the White House to go through Congress all over again. That will require overcoming the partisanship and procedural hurdles that have consumed Congress in recent years.
I have to say, Obama is once again showing he has guts. If only he would use some of that to stand firm on domestic policies. The BBC reports that the Obama administration has been working toward this agreement for months through secret negotiations that SOS John Kerry was involved in while he was still chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
I’m really curious to know what role Hillary Clinton played in these negotiations and whether she supports the deal, but I can’t find any information about that so far. Meanwhile, here’s a positive review from Mark Fitzpatrick of the International Institute for strategic studies (IISS): The surprisingly good Geneva deal.
The deal reached in the early hours of the morning in Geneva on 24 November was better than I had expected, and better than would have been the case without France’s last-day intervention at the previous round two weeks earlier. I spent much of Sunday making the rounds of TV studios and fielding print-media interviews, explaining why opponents in Israel, the Gulf and US Congress should overcome their scepticism. The more I studied the deal, the more apparent it became to me that those who knock it probably did not want any agreement at all – at least not any deal that was within the realm of possibility.
The Geneva agreement is a good deal because Iran’s capabilities in every part of the nuclear programme of concern are capped, with strong verification measures. The terms require that for the next six months, no more centrifuges can be added, none of the advanced models that were previously installed can be turned on, the stockpiles of enriched uranium cannot increase, and work cannot progress on the research reactor at Arak, which is of concern because of the weapons-grade plutonium that would be produced there. Going well beyond normal verification rules, inspectors will be able to visit the key facilities on a daily basis and even have access to centrifuge production and assembly sites.
Moreover, the most worrisome part of the programme is being rolled back. Iran is suspending 20% enrichment, which is on the cusp of being weapons-usable, and neutralising the existing stockpile of 20% product, half through conversion to oxide form and half through blending down. Although the P5+1 had earlier asked for the stockpile to be exported, these measures will virtually accomplish the same purpose by eliminating the stockpile. Reversing these measures would take time.
Time is the essential variable of this deal. The net effect of the limits Iran has accepted is to double the time it would take for it to make a dash to produce fissile material for nuclear weapons. Without a deal, the break-out time might instead soon be halved.
Read the rest at the link.
Paul Krugman has a column up about some positives on the rollout of Obamacare and California as a “test case” for the program.
Now, California isn’t the only place where Obamacare is looking pretty good. A number of states that are running their own online health exchanges instead of relying on HealthCare.gov are doing well. Kentucky’s Kynect is a huge success; so is Access Health CT in Connecticut. New York is doing O.K. And we shouldn’t forget that Massachusetts has had an Obamacare-like program since 2006, put into effect by a guy named Mitt Romney.
California is, however, an especially useful test case. First of all, it’s huge: if a system can work for 38 million people, it can work for America as a whole. Also, it’s hard to argue that California has had any special advantages other than that of having a government that actually wants to help the uninsured. When Massachusetts put Romneycare into effect, it already had a relatively low number of uninsured residents. California, however, came into health reform with 22 percent of its nonelderly population uninsured, compared with a national average of 18 percent.
Finally, the California authorities have been especially forthcoming with data tracking the progress of enrollment. And the numbers are increasingly encouraging.
Krugman says that about 10,000 people are signing up per day, and the enrollment numbers show a balance between younger, healthier enrollees and those who are older and more likely to need health care.
So . . . it’s a somewhat slow news day as we head into the holiday season, but the Iran deal will give us something to talk about while the folks in Washington take their extra long vacations. I don’t even want to think about what will happen when they get back and start clashing over the debt ceiling again.
What interesting stories are you finding out there today? Please post your links in the comment thread and have a good day despite the weather!
Amid all the bad news, there’s apparently progress in the negotiations with Iran. The LA Times reported yesterday that a “nuclear deal appears imminent.” Secretary of State John Kerry headed to Geneva, Switzerland yesterday to help out.
After a rocky day Thursday, negotiators appeared for now to have overcome their differences on Iran’s entitlement to enrich uranium and on how to curb progress on a partially built nuclear research reactor that Western powers view as a particular threat.
U.S. Secretary of State John F. Kerry left late Friday for Geneva to help “narrow the differences and move closer to an agreement,” the State Department said. Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, arrived from Moscow early Friday evening, making him the first of the six nations’ ministers to show up for a possible signing ceremony that would end a decade of usually stalemated negotiations….
A deal would be a first-stage agreement that would give Iran temporary relief from the crushing Western sanctions on its economy in exchange for temporary limits on its nuclear program. Many nations fear that Iran, despite its insistence that its program is for peaceful purposes only, is seeking weapons capability with its huge nuclear infrastructure.
This deal would open the way for tough bargaining on a final, comprehensive agreement that would take six months or longer to be reached.
Isn’t it amazing what you can accomplish with a little carrot and stick diplomacy? Too bad Bush and Cheney never tried it.
U.S. negotiators and their counterparts from the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia and China have been meeting with the Iranians since Wednesday in an effort to strike an interim deal to delay Iran’s nuclear program while a larger deal is worked out that would prevent the Islamic Republic from obtaining nuclear weapons.
Britain’s Foreign Secretary William Hague spoke of “very difficult negotiations, saying “narrow gaps” remain on the same issues that blocked agreement at the last round earlier this month.
“We’re not here because things are necessarily finished,” Hague told reporters. “We’re here because they’re difficult, and they remain difficult.”
Still, the fact that they are talking is definitely encouraging. In another sign that something is actually happening, the Chinese foreign minister arrived in Geneva today. “Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said Saturday the talks…have reached the final moment.”
For those of you who still use air travel, the FCC is on the verge of making a decision that could make flying infinitely more annoying that it is already. From The Washington Post: FCC sees backlash after proposing to allow in-flight cellphone calls on planes.
The Federal Communications Commission said Thursday that it will consider rules that would allow air travelers to make calls and use their cellular data plans once a plane reaches 10,000 feet. Restrictions would remain for takeoffs and landings.
The proposal, which will be raised at the commission’s meeting next month, has the backing of the agency’s newly appointed chairman. But the idea is bound to be controversial. Within hours of the announcement, consumers flooded the agency with protests.
One FCC commissioner received hundreds of e-mails complaining that the move would lead to unbearable noise pollution, an aide said. Passengers are already crammed into smaller seats and tighter rows, and being forced to listen to one another’s calls would be yet another indignity, they wrote.
A petition quickly went up on the White House Web site Thursday, asking the Obama administration to stop the effort. “This would make an already cranky, uncomfortable travel experience exponentially worse, and as a frequent flier and concerned citizen, I think the administration needs to nip this in the bud,” a resident from Richmond wrote.
Something tells me if this plan goes through, there are going be a lot more air rage incidents in the not-so-friendly skies. But after the uproar, USA Today is reporting that the new FCC commissioner–only three weeks into the job–is backpedaling rapidly.
NEW YORK (AP) — A day after setting off an uproar among travelers opposed to in-flight phone calls, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission Chairman backtracked, saying he personally isn’t in favor of calls on planes.
The role of the FCC, he added, is to advise if there is a safety issue with using phones on planes. He said there is “no technical reason to prohibit” the use of mobile devices on planes.
“We understand that many passengers would prefer that voice calls not be made on airplanes. I feel that way myself,” chairman Tom Wheeler said in a Friday statement.
The decision to allow calls will ultimately rest with the airlines, Wheeler emphasized.
The Wall Street Journal reports that U.S. District Judge William H. Pauley III “Appears Receptive to Critics of NSA’s Collection of Phone Data.” Back in 1979, the Supreme Court decided that phone records are not private, because we willingly give the information to our telephone company. But now Judge Pauley is questioning that decision based on recent revelations about NSA data collection.
“Doesn’t the information collected here reveal far more?” U.S. District Judge William H. Pauley III asked during a hearing in Manhattan federal court on Friday.
Judge Pauley also questioned whether Congress could authorize the collection when the NSA program’s existence wasn’t widely known among lawmakers.
The hearing stemmed from a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and its New York affiliate days after the program was revealed in news reports that were based on documents provided by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. The groups argue the bulk collection of records called metadata—which includes the phone numbers people dialed and where they were calling from—violates Americans’ privacy rights, as well as federal law.
The judge issued no immediate ruling and left open the possibility that he could dismiss part of the case, because federal law designates the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court as the proper venue for certain national-security issues.
Pauley is a Clinton appointee.
In Pakistan, a protest by about 10,000 people against U.S. drone strikes succeeded in blocking a supply route to and from Afghanistan.
The protest, led by Pakistani politician and cricket star Imran Khan, had more symbolic value than practical impact as there is normally little NATO supply traffic on the road on Saturdays. The blocked route in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province leads to one of two border crossings used to send supplies overland from Pakistan to neighboring Afghanistan.
Khan, whose Tehreek-e-Insaf party runs the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government, called on federal officials to take a firmer stance to force the U.S. to end drone attacks and block NATO supplies across the country.
“We will put pressure on America, and our protest will continue if drone attacks are not stopped,” Khan told the protesters.
The demonstrators dispersed after Khan’s speech, but his party put out a statement saying they will begin stopping trucks from carrying NATO supplies through Khyber Pakhtunkhwa indefinitely beginning Sunday night. That could spark a clash with the federal government.
Raw Story has an update in the case of Kendrick Johnson, the 17-year-old whose body was found inside a gym mat in a Valdosta, GA high school.
At least an hour of footage is missing from each of the four surveillance cameras at Kendrick Johnson’s high school, and the original footage showing how the Georgia teenager died might be gone, CNN reported on Thursday.
“Those files are not original files,” forensics video analyst Grant Fredericks told CNN. “They’re not something investigators should rely on for the truth of the video.”
CNN enlisted Fredericks in order to analyze more than 290 hours of video it acquired from Lowndes County High School, where the 17-year-old was found dead in the gym in January. Local officials initially determined that he died from asphyxiation after getting trapped inside a gym mat, an argument his family has rejected. An independent autopsy ordered by the victim’s family found the cause of death to be “unexplained, apparent non-accidental, blunt force trauma.”
But while the Lowndes Public Schools district told CNN the video it provided was “a raw feed with no edits,” Fredericks disagreed, saying it was “altered in a number of ways, primarily in image quality and likely in dropped information, information loss. There are also a number of files that are corrupted because they’ve not been processed correctly and they’re not playable. I can’t say why they were done that way, but they were not done correctly, and they were not done thoroughly. So we’re missing information.”
Specifically, two of the cameras are missing 65 minutes of footage each, while the other two are missing 130 minutes apiece. Another camera outside of the gymnasium has a time stamp 10 minutes behind the ones inside.
It sounds like the cover had to involve someone in the school administration, doesn’t it?