By Fredrik Dahl VIENNA (Reuters) – Iran and six world powers need more time to work out complex technical steps on implementing last month's deal for Tehran to curb its nuclear program, the European Union said on Friday after four days of expert-level talks in Vienna. The November 24 interim accord, reached after marathon talks in Geneva, is seen as a step towards resolving a decade-old standoff over suspicions that Iran is covertly seeking the capability to make nuclear weapons, a charge Tehran denies. Experts from Iran, the United States, France, Germany, Britain, China, Russia and the European Union labored during a December 9-12 meeting at the headquarters of the U.N. nuclear watchdog to agree on how to carry it out in practice. But, in a sign of the technical difficulties involved, they will now consult with their capitals before meeting again.
CIA operators of US drones in Yemen mistook a wedding convoy for al-Qaeda on Friday, killing 15 persons and wounding many others. Some 10 were killed immediately and 5 more died from their wounds.
Al-Quds al-`Arabi, a London-based daily, talked to a member of the wedding party, who said that it is impossible that the wedding party contained al-Qaeda operatives.
South Yemen has witnessed an intractable al-Qaeda presence.
Related video (from 3 weeks ago):
(By Bill Moyers)
I met Supreme Court Justice William Brennan in 1987 when I was creating a series for public television called In Search of the Constitution, celebrating the bicentennial of our founding document. By then, he had served on the court longer than any of his colleagues and had written close to 500 majority opinions, many of them addressing fundamental questions of equality, voting rights, school segregation, and — in New York Times v. Sullivan in particular — the defense of a free press.
Those decisions brought a storm of protest from across the country. He claimed that he never took personally the resentment and anger directed at him. He did, however, subsequently reveal that his own mother told him she had always liked his opinions when he was on the New Jersey court, but wondered now that he was on the Supreme Court, “Why can’t you do it the same way?” His answer: “We have to discharge our responsibility to enforce the rights in favor of minorities, whatever the majority reaction may be.”
Although a liberal, he worried about the looming size of government. When he mentioned that modern science might be creating “a Frankenstein,” I asked, “How so?” He looked around his chambers and replied, “The very conversation we’re now having can be overheard. Science has done things that, as I understand it, makes it possible through these drapes and those windows to get something in here that takes down what we’re talking about.”
That was long before the era of cyberspace and the maximum surveillance state that grows topsy-turvy with every administration. How I wish he were here now — and still on the Court!
My interview with him was one of 12 episodes in that series on the Constitution. Another concerned a case he had heard back in 1967. It involved a teacher named Harry Keyishian who had been fired because he would not sign a New York State loyalty oath. Justice Brennan ruled that the loyalty oath and other anti-subversive state statutes of that era violated First Amendment protections of academic freedom.
I tracked Keyishian down and interviewed him. Justice Brennan watched that program and was fascinated to see the actual person behind the name on his decision. The journalist Nat Hentoff, who followed Brennan’s work closely, wrote, “He may have seen hardly any of the litigants before him, but he searched for a sense of them in the cases that reached him.” Watching the interview with Keyishian, he said, “It was the first time I had seen him. Until then, I had no idea that he and the other teachers would have lost everything if the case had gone the other way.”
Toward the end of his tenure, when he was writing an increasing number of dissents on the Rehnquist Court, Brennan was asked if he was getting discouraged. He smiled and said, “Look, pal, we’ve always known — the Framers knew — that liberty is a fragile thing. You can’t give up.” And he didn’t.
The Donor Class and Streams of Dark Money
The historian Plutarch warned us long ago of what happens when there is no brake on the power of great wealth to subvert the electorate. “The abuse of buying and selling votes,” he wrote of Rome, “crept in and money began to play an important part in determining elections. Later on, this process of corruption spread in the law courts and to the army, and finally, when even the sword became enslaved by the power of gold, the republic was subjected to the rule of emperors.”
We don’t have emperors yet, but we do have a Senate in which, as a study by the political scientist Larry Bartels reveals, “Senators appear to be considerably more responsive to the opinions of affluent constituents than to the opinions of middle-class constituents, while the opinions of constituents in the bottom third of the income distribution have no apparent statistical effect on their senators’ roll call votes.”
We don’t have emperors yet, but we have a House of Representatives controlled by the far right that is now nourished by streams of “dark money” unleashed thanks to the gift bestowed on the rich by the Supreme Court in the Citizens United case.
We don’t have emperors yet, but one of our two major parties is now dominated by radicals engaged in a crusade of voter suppression aimed at the elderly, the young, minorities, and the poor; while the other party, once the champion of everyday working people, has been so enfeebled by its own collaboration with the donor class that it offers only token resistance to the forces that have demoralized everyday Americans.
Writing in the Guardian recently, the social critic George Monbiot commented,
“So I don’t blame people for giving up on politics… When a state-corporate nexus of power has bypassed democracy and made a mockery of the voting process, when an unreformed political system ensures that parties can be bought and sold, when politicians [of the main parties] stand and watch as public services are divvied up by a grubby cabal of privateers, what is left of this system that inspires us to participate?”
Why are record numbers of Americans on food stamps? Because record numbers of Americans are in poverty. Why are people falling through the cracks? Because there are cracks to fall through. It is simply astonishing that in this rich nation more than 21 million Americans are still in need of full-time work, many of them running out of jobless benefits, while our financial class pockets record profits, spends lavishly on campaigns to secure a political order that serves its own interests, and demands that our political class push for further austerity. Meanwhile, roughly 46 million Americans live at or below the poverty line and, with the exception of Romania, no developed country has a higher percent of kids in poverty than we do. Yet a study by scholars at Northwestern University and Vanderbilt finds little support among the wealthiest Americans for policy reforms to reduce income inequality.
Listen! That sound you hear is the shredding of the social contract.
Ten years ago the Economist magazine — no friend of Marxism — warned: “The United States risks calcifying into a European-style class-based society.” And as a recent headline in the Columbia Journalism Review put it: “The line between democracy and a darker social order is thinner than you think.”
We are this close — this close! — to losing our democracy to the mercenary class. So close it’s as if we’re leaning way over the rim of the Grand Canyon waiting for a swift kick in the pants.
When Justice Brennan and I talked privately in his chambers before that interview almost 20 years ago, I asked him how he had come to his liberal sentiments. “It was my neighborhood,” he said. Born to Irish immigrants in 1906, as the harsh indignities of the Gilded Age brought hardship and deprivation to his kinfolk and neighbors, he saw “all kinds of suffering — people had to struggle.” He never forgot those people or their struggles, and he believed it to be our collective responsibility to create a country where they would have a fair chance to a decent life. “If you doubt it,” he said, “read the Preamble [to the Constitution].”
He then asked me how I had come to my philosophy about government (knowing that I had been in both the Kennedy and Johnson administrations). I don’t remember my exact words, but I reminded him that I had been born in the midst of the Great Depression to parents, one of whom had to drop out of school in the fourth grade, the other in the eighth, because they were needed in the fields to pick cotton to help support their families.
Franklin Roosevelt, I recalled, had been president during the first 11 years of my life. My father had listened to his radio “fireside chats” as if they were gospel; my brother went to college on the G.I. Bill; and I had been the beneficiary of public schools, public libraries, public parks, public roads, and two public universities. How could I not think that what had been so good for me would be good for others, too?
That was the essence of what I told Justice Brennan. Now, I wish that I could talk to him again, because I failed to mention perhaps the most important lesson about democracy I ever learned.
On my 16th birthday in 1950, I went to work for the daily newspaper in the small East Texas town where I grew up. It was a racially divided town — about 20,000 people, half of them white, half of them black — a place where you could grow up well-loved, well-taught, and well-churched, and still be unaware of the lives of others merely blocks away. It was nonetheless a good place to be a cub reporter: small enough to navigate but big enough to keep me busy and learning something new every day. I soon had a stroke of luck. Some of the old-timers in the newsroom were on vacation or out sick, and I got assigned to report on what came to be known as the “Housewives’ Rebellion.” Fifteen women in town (all white) decided not to pay the Social Security withholding tax for their domestic workers (all black).
They argued that Social Security was unconstitutional, that imposing it was taxation without representation, and that — here’s my favorite part — “requiring us to collect [the tax] is no different from requiring us to collect the garbage.” They hired themselves a lawyer — none other than Martin Dies, Jr., the former congressman best known, or worst known, for his work as head of the House Committee on Un-American Activities in the witch-hunting days of the 1930s and 1940s. They went to court — and lost. Social Security was constitutional, after all. They held their noses and paid the tax.
The stories I helped report were picked up by the Associated Press and circulated nationwide. One day, the managing editor, Spencer Jones, called me over and pointed to the AP ticker beside his desk. Moving across the wire was a notice citing the reporters on our paper for the reporting we had done on the “rebellion.” I spotted my name and was hooked. In one way or another, after a detour through seminary and then into politics and government, I’ve been covering the class war ever since.
Those women in Marshall, Texas, were among its advance guard. Not bad people, they were regulars at church, their children were my classmates, many of them were active in community affairs, and their husbands were pillars of the business and professional class in town. They were respectable and upstanding citizens all, so it took me a while to figure out what had brought on that spasm of reactionary defiance. It came to me one day, much later: they simply couldn’t see beyond their own prerogatives.
Fiercely loyal to their families, to their clubs, charities, and congregations — fiercely loyal, in other words, to their own kind — they narrowly defined membership in democracy to include only people like themselves. The black women who washed and ironed their laundry, cooked their families’ meals, cleaned their bathrooms, wiped their children’s bottoms, and made their husbands’ beds, these women, too, would grow old and frail, sick and decrepit, lose their husbands and face the ravages of time alone, with nothing to show for their years of labor but the creases on their brows and the knots on their knuckles. There would be nothing for them to live on but the modest return on their toil secured by the collaborative guarantee of a safety net.
The Unfinished Work of America
In one way or another, this is the oldest story in America: the struggle to determine whether “we, the people” is a moral compact embedded in a political contract or merely a charade masquerading as piety and manipulated by the powerful and privileged to sustain their own way of life at the expense of others.
I should make it clear that I don’t harbor any idealized notion of politics and democracy. Remember, I worked for Lyndon Johnson. Nor do I romanticize “the people.” You should read my mail and posts on right-wing websites. I understand the politician in Texas who said of the state legislature, “If you think these guys are bad, you should see their constituents.”
But there is nothing idealized or romantic about the difference between a society whose arrangements roughly serve all its citizens (something otherwise known as social justice) and one whose institutions have been converted into a stupendous fraud. That can be the difference between democracy and plutocracy.
Toward the end of Justice Brennan’s tenure on the Supreme Court, he made a speech that went to the heart of the matter. He said:
“We do not yet have justice, equal and practical, for the poor, for the members of minority groups, for the criminally accused, for the displaced persons of the technological revolution, for alienated youth, for the urban masses… Ugly inequities continue to mar the face of the nation. We are surely nearer the beginning than the end of the struggle.”
And so we are. One hundred and fifty years ago, Abraham Lincoln stood on the blood-soaked battlefield of Gettysburg and called Americans to “the great task remaining.” That “unfinished work,” as he named it, remained the same then as it was when America’s founding generation began it. And it remains the same today: to breathe new life into the promise of the Declaration of Independence and to assure that the Union so many have sacrificed to save is a union worth saving.
Bill Moyers has received 35 Emmy awards, nine Peabody Awards, the National Academy of Television’s Lifetime Achievement Award, and an honorary doctor of fine arts from the American Film Institute over his 40 years in broadcast journalism. He is currently host of the weekly public television series Moyers & Company and president of the Schumann Media Center, a non-profit organization which supports independent journalism. He delivered these remarks (slightly adapted here) at the annual Legacy Awards dinner of the Brennan Center for Justice, a non-partisan public policy institute in New York City that focuses on voting rights, money in politics, equal justice, and other seminal issues of democracy. This is his first TomDispatch piece.
Follow TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook or Tumblr. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, Ann Jones’s They Were Soldiers: How the Wounded Return From America’s Wars — The Untold Story.
Copyright 2013 Bill Moyers
Mirrored from Tomdispatch.com
The sectarian bloodbath in Syria is such a threat to regional security that a victory for Bashar al-Assad's regime could be the best outcome to hope for, a former CIA chief said. Washington condemned Assad's conduct of the conflict, threatened air strikes after he was accused of targeting civilians with chemical weapons and has demanded he step down. The United States is also supplying millions of dollars in "non-lethal" aid to some of the rebel groups fighting Assad's rule. But Michael Hayden, the retired US Air Force general who until 2009 was head of the Central Intelligence Agency, said a rebel win was not one of the three possible outcomes he foresees for the conflict.
European leaders should be ashamed by the paltry numbers of refugees from Syria they are prepared to resettle, human rights group Amnesty says.
Go to Source
This is going around. It’s funny in one of those “the joke is great after you have it explained to you” ways:
This should be obvious to anyone who has been following Egyptian social media the past few days, and also is pretty familiar with the iconography (in the literal sense of the symbolism of icons) of Eastern Christian saints. (Though the Coptic label is a big clue there. If you know some Coptic of course.) And that’s an Omega watch, of course, and Sigmund Freud in the role of Saint Basil of course, and …
Just in case a few of you are still a little puzzled or don’t fit all the above, let’s start with General Sisi’s dreams.
An audiotape appeared on a YouTube video yesterday, posted by the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party. It purports to be (though it’s not confirmed genuine) an interview between Egypt’s General Sisi and the Editor of Al-Masry al-Youm. In it Gen Sisi allegedly reveals (though he goes off the record to do it) that for the past 35 years he has had dream visions, in which he saw himself as ruler of Egypt wielding a sword with the slogan “There is no God but God” in red, and wearing an Omega watch.
First, the Arabic audio (transcript in Arabic), followed by an English transcript from this website:
Interviewer: Had you expected to take on the leadership of the Egyptian Army?
El-Sisi: The leadership of the Egyptian army, or something greater than that?
El-Sisi: I am of the people who’ve had a long history of visions. This is only for you.
Interviewer: Okay, I’ll listen, I’ll only write later.
El-Sisi: 35 years ago…well, I’ve stopped talking about visions 7 or 8 years ago, from 2006.
Interviewer: I understand this part…
El-Sisi: I stopped talking about these things. I said I wouldn’t talk about it again. But I’ve always had visions…
Interviewer: You see yourself on the throne of Egypt?
El-Sisi: No, that’s not it. I’ve seen a lot of things…
Interviewer: That happened?
El-Sisi: That happened afterwards…nobody could explain it. For 35 years, nobody could explain it.
Interviewer: Like what?
El-Sisi: But this won’t be said.
Interviewer: Not in this interview, but whenever God wishes.
El-Sisi: For example, many years ago, I saw in a dream, that I was raising a sword, on which was written “No God but God” in red…this was 35 years ago…
Interviewer: “No God but God” colored red…?
El-Sisi: In red, yes – on the sword, raised like this. Another in which I had on my wrist, a watch, with a very big green star on it…and Omega, and people are asking “Why you? Why do you have this watch?” and I said this watch is named for me, it’s an Omega, and I’m Abdel Fattah, so I put the Omega, with…the global nature, with Abdel Fattah. Not me, the dream, that’s just an example. In another dream, I was told I would be given what nobody else had been given…
El-Sisi: In the dream, we’ll give you what nobody else had been given. In another dream, I was with Sadat, and I was talking to him, and he told me “I knew that I would be the president of the republic”, and I said to him “I also know that I’m going to be the president of the republic.”
Interviewer: What do you feel when you see your pictures raised next to pictures of Abdel Nasser, and when Abdel Hakeem said you are an extension of the leader, and that you are the most capable of leading the country?
El-Sisi: There’s a prayer I always say, that I could be that.
Okay, that explains (in so far as it is explicable) the red-labeled sword and the Omega watch, and offers at least a clue a to the presence of Sigmund Freud. And the spear of course is poking at Muhammad Morsi, and has knocked off his crown.
Now for the rest of the imagery. Despite resembling the typical images, it does not represent St. George and the Dragon (with Morsi as the dragon), but rather the dream of Saint Basil, in which Freud is Basil and Sisi is Saint Philopater Mercurius (a Coptic version of whose name is the label, but the twin swords also give it away). Here is a non-Sisi version of a similar icon:
Saint Phikopater Mercurius was an early Christan soldier-saint and martyr. Legemd has it that the Archangel Michael came to him and gave him a dicine sword to go with his physical sword as a Roman soldier: in Arab Christian tradition he is known as Abu Saifain, he with two swords; hence the sword in each hand. He was martyred in 250 AD by the Emperor Decius, the same Emperor he had previously served.
A Cappadocian, he was buried there, but years later the Armenian Church gave some of his relics to the Coptic Church, and he became the subject of popular veneration.
But you can’t keep a good saint down. Over a century after his death, in 363, Saint Basil the Great, also Cappadocian, was imprisoned by his former schoolmate Julian, now the notorious Emperor Julian “the Apostate,” who had reverted to paganism and started persecuting Christianity anew. Legend says he prayed for deliverance, and in a dream
was told he would be President of Egypt with an Omega watch had a vision in which St. Philopater Mercurius appeared and told him that he had struck the Emperor Julian with a lance. Julian was indeed pierced through the liver with a lance in a battle with the Sassanid Perisans, and soon died; Christianity was restored and St. Basil freed.
So that’s the rest of the imagery: Morsi is the despised Julian; Sisi wields the twin swords of the saint, but bearing an Islamic slogan. It falls apart a bit in that Freud is Saint Basil, since despite the connection with dreams, it wasn’t Freud’s dream here, it was Sisi’s. And then there’s the Omega watch. (At least he didn’t dream of a Rolex.)
But you all knew this already, right?
So Sisi’s not just Nasser. He’s Saint Philopater, but with the Muslim shahada on his sword.
I still don’t get the Omega/Abdel Fattah link though.
Go to Source
An ex-FBI agent believed held in Iran for the last seven years was working for the CIA on an unapproved mission, the Associated Press reports.
Go to Source
Chemical weapons were “probably used” at five out of seven sites in Syria investigated by UN experts, their report says.
Go to Source
They fled air strikes and shelling, but many of Syria's three million refugees have found little comfort elsewhere, suffering in squalid camps and risking death to reach Europe's shores. In Lebanon, many crowd into makeshift shelters in agricultural fields that will soon be blanketed in thick snow, and in Egypt they have faced government crackdowns and deportation. A lucky few have found asylum in Sweden or Germany, but many more have ended up in the EU's poorest nation Bulgaria, held in overflowing shelters. Some of the estimated three million Syrian refugees are treading paths well-worn by economic migrants from Niger, Eritrea and elsewhere — people fleeing poverty as much as conflict.
A bruising winter storm brought severe weather to the Middle East Thursday, forcing the closure of roads and schools and blanketing already miserable Syrian refugee camps with snow. The nearly three-year-old conflict in Syria has killed an estimated 126,000 people and displaced millions, including more than two million who have fled across the borders and thousands who are living in makeshift camps. Bad weather also delayed the first-ever international UN airlift, set to leave the Kurdish region of northern Iraq for Qamishli in northeastern Syria. "When it will start is difficult to say — I think the authorities in Qamishli are going to check conditions at the airfield on Friday," UN refugee agency (UNHCR) regional spokesman Peter Kessler told AFP.