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Archive for September 26th, 2009

Google Earth Maps Out a Catastrophic Threat

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on September 26th, 2009 4:45 am by HL

Google Earth Maps Out a Catastrophic Threat
Who’s that booming baritone talking about the environment? Al Gore stars in a promotional video developed by Google Earth that shows environment degradation via the popular mapping program, a sort of “climate change simulator” of ice-sheet melting and rising sea levels. READ THE WHOLE ITEM

Google Earth

Who’s that booming baritone talking about the environment? Al Gore stars in a promotional video developed by Google Earth that shows environment degradation via the popular mapping program, a sort of “climate change simulator” of ice-sheet melting and rising sea levels.

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Olmert’s Corruption Trial Opens in Israel
Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is being tried on charges of corruption that allegedly occurred while he was Jerusalem’s mayor and later a Cabinet member. Olmert maintains his innocence, claiming a three-year smear campaign forced him to resign as prime minister a year ago.  —JCL The BBC: The trial of the former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on corruption charges has begun in Jerusalem. Mr Olmert, the first Israeli prime minister to stand trial, denies charges of failing to declare income, breaching trust and falsifying corporate records. The charges relate to the periods when Mr Olmert was mayor of Jerusalem and a cabinet minister, but before he became the Israeli prime minister in 2006. As he arrived in court, Mr Olmert insisted he was not guilty. “I came here as an innocent man and I believe I will leave here as an innocent man,” he said. Read more READ THE WHOLE ITEM

Ehud Olmert

Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is being tried on charges of corruption that allegedly occurred while he was Jerusalem’s mayor and later a Cabinet member. Olmert maintains his innocence, claiming a three-year smear campaign forced him to resign as prime minister a year ago.? —JCL

The BBC:

The trial of the former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert on corruption charges has begun in Jerusalem.

Mr Olmert, the first Israeli prime minister to stand trial, denies charges of failing to declare income, breaching trust and falsifying corporate records.

The charges relate to the periods when Mr Olmert was mayor of Jerusalem and a cabinet minister, but before he became the Israeli prime minister in 2006.

As he arrived in court, Mr Olmert insisted he was not guilty.

“I came here as an innocent man and I believe I will leave here as an innocent man,” he said.

Read more

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Craig Alan Silverman: Obama Team Stops Another 9/11, Gets Help From Unlikely Source (Najibullah Zazi’s Lawyer)

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on September 26th, 2009 4:44 am by HL

Craig Alan Silverman: Obama Team Stops Another 9/11, Gets Help From Unlikely Source (Najibullah Zazi’s Lawyer)
I don’t know Arthur Folsom despite my having practiced law in Denver for 30 years. For three days he held exhaustive meetings with the FBI. That resulted in an arrest for, you guessed it, lying to the FBI.

Huff TV: Sam Stein Talks About The Current State Of The Public Option On The “Ed Show’
HuffPost reporter Sam Stein appeared on the “Ed Show” Friday to talk about the current state of the public option for health care reform. During…

Obama Adviser Signals White House Giving Up On Climate Change Treaty
Is the Obama administration giving up on reaching a comprehensive international climate change agreement this year? A statement released on Friday by John Podesta, who…

Michelle Kraus: Quiet Voices from CGI: Those that Fight the Epic Battle in the Ecuador Rain Forest
Amidst the glitterati and the bustle of the Clinton Global Initiative (“CGI”) are the “quiet voices” of individuals and NGO’s trying to affect change on…


Limbaugh, others run with GOP attack on Obama for Libyan funding — ignoring Bush’s requests for millions* for Libya

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on September 26th, 2009 4:43 am by HL

Limbaugh, others run with GOP attack on Obama for Libyan funding — ignoring Bush’s requests for millions* for Libya

Right-wing media including Rush Limbaugh, National Review Online’s The Corner blog, the Gateway Pundit blog, and the Say Anything blog have attacked President Obama over funding that the State Department plans to give to Libyan organizations, including the Gaddafi Development Foundation, run by one of Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi’s children. However, the Bush administration also worked with the Gaddafi Development Foundation and requested millions of dollars in funding for Libya.

Bush administration worked with Gaddafi Development Foundation

Bush State Department official said Gaddafi Development Foundation was a “partner,” “very helpful” in negotiations to get compensation for Pan Am 103 victims. From a 2008 State Department briefing:

QUESTION: In the last several months, the son of Muammar Qadhafi, Saif al-Islam al-Qadhafi, had said that the families of the — the Pan Am families were acting in a greedy manner and that the Libyan Government just kind of said whatever it needed to say and did whatever it needed to do to end this chapter in U.S.-Libyan relations. Do you care about that? I mean, does that — do those kind of comments give you pause in terms of the relationship? Or are you just glad they gave them money and you’re ready to move on?

DAVID WELCH (assistant secretary of state for Near East affairs): Well, I always pay attention to what people say and try to be measured in my own remarks. These are emotional subjects on both sides, and I’ve had a lot of interactions with Mr. Saif al-Islam al-Qadhafi, and I know that on their side this is an emotional issue as well.

That said, I believe he made an important contribution to trying to move this issue forward and has been doing so for some time. The Qadhafi Development Foundation is the partner to our own representation for how the international claims agreement goes, and they’ve been very helpful in this negotiation, as he has been personally.

Elise, it takes leadership on both sides to address a problem as complex as this, and it’s also taken time. And I can — I know that sometimes there have been irritations and those have been frayed here and there. The important thing is to try and get it concluded, and we’ve managed to do that. [10/31/08]

Bush administration reportedly worked with Gaddafi Development Foundation to visit detainee it transferred from Guantánamo to Libya. From a 2008 Human Rights Watch briefing:

One section of the paper documents the continued detention without charge of two Libyan men returned to Libya by the US government from Guantanamo Bay. The United States, acting in part on Libyan promises of humane treatment, sent Muhammad Abdallah Mansur al-Rimi to Libya in December 2006, followed by Sofian Ibrahim Hamad Hamoodah in September 2007.

The Libyan government has failed to provide Human Rights Watch with information about either man, despite repeated requests. The State Department said it visited them both on December 25 at a facility of the Libyan security forces, in the presence of Libyan officials and an official from the Qadhafi Development Foundation, a quasi-government organization run by Mu’ammar al-Qadhafi’s son, Saif al-Islam. Both men were in detention facing unknown charges, but said they had not been physically abused, the State Department said. [1/2/08]

Bush administration requested millions of dollars for Libya

Bush administration requested $1.15 million for Libya in fiscal year 2008. In its foreign operations budget request for FY 2008, the Bush administration requested $1.15 million. As a justification for its request, the administration said: “Foreign assistance to Libya will initially be targeted to the Peace and Security objective in order to graduate Libya from a Restrictive country to a Developing country. Assistance in this objective will be complemented by a robust International Visitors Leadership Program (IVLP) and other exchanges as well as the inclusion of Libyan citizens in regional initiatives that can build a democratic cadre to advance internal reforms.” According to the State Department, Congress actually appropriated $1 million for FY 2008.

Bush administration requested $1.1 million for Libya in FY 2009. The Bush administration requested $1.1 million for FY 2009.

Right-wing media echo GOP attack on Obama over U.S. funding for Libya

From the September 25 edition of Premiere Radio Networks’ The Rush Limbaugh Show:

LIMBAUGH: You know that we were going to give $2.5 million in aid to Libya through the State Department — the U.S. Agency for International Development? And the State Department now says they’re rethinking this, giving $2.5 million in aid to Libya, including two foundations run by Gaddafi’s sons. This is after lawmakers on Thursday asked it to cancel the plan because of Gaddafi’s speech. But we were gonna do it in the first place.

From a September 24 post by Andy McCarthy on NRO’s The Corner blog:

The Obama administration has notified Congress of the State Department’s intention to contribute $400,000 to foundations run by Muammar Qaddafi’s two children — $200,000 each for daughter Aisha and son Saif. Saif, you may recall, is the son who escorted the Lockerbie terrorist Abdel Baset al-Megrahi home to a hero’s welcome in Libya after President Obama sternly “warned” Qaddafi that there was to be no hero’s welcome.

Illinois Republican congressman Mark Steven Kirk (House Appropriations Subcommittee on State/Foreign Operations) has sent Obama a letter asking him to rescind the funding.

Could somebody please tell this president that this is not just Annenberg Foundation cash he’s passing out to his personal terrorist pals like Bill Ayers but American taxpayer dollars he’s doling out to the terrorist tyrant behind the murder — in just that one incident — of 270 people, including 189 Americans.

Just 40 months to go. God help us.

From a September 25 Gateway Pundit post:

Nice. Obama plans on giving $400,000 to a Libyan Charity run by the Gaddafi family. CBS2 Chicago reported:

The Obama Administration plans to give $400,000 in funding to a Libyan charity run by the Gadhafi family, and U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) wants the grant withdrawn.

The money would be divided between two foundations run by the family of Libyan leader Muammar Gadhafi. A $200,000 share is set to go to the Gadhafi Development Foundation, which is run by Gadhafi’s son, Saif, and another $200,000 are to go to Wa Attassimou, an organization run by Muammar Gadhafi’s daughter, Aisha.

From a Say Anything post titled, “Obama Gives $200,000 Of Your Children’s Tax Dollars To Charities Run By Libyan Dictator’s Children”:

We don’t have the money. This is just adding to the massive national debt pile we already have. And oh, by the way, this money is going to charities run by tyrants and terrorist sympathizers.

The Obama administration has notified Congress of the State Department’s intention to contribute $400,000 to foundations run by Muammar Qaddafi’s two children – $200,000 each for daughter Aisha and son Saif. Saif, you may recall, is the son who escorted the Lockerbie terrorist Abdel Baset al-Megrahi home to a hero’s welcome in Libya after President Obama sternly “warned” Qaddafi that there was to be no hero’s welcome.

Illinois Republican congressman Mark Steven Kirk (House Appropriations Subcommittee on State/Foreign Operations) has sent Obama a letter asking him to rescind the funding.


Nemazee’s Brother-In-Law Charged As Accomplice In Alleged Ponzi Scheme

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on September 26th, 2009 4:42 am by HL

Nemazee’s Brother-In-Law Charged As Accomplice In Alleged Ponzi Scheme
Hassan Nemazee’s brother-in-law has been charged as an accomplice in the same alleged $292 million Ponzi scheme that Nemazee himself was indicted for earlier this week.


Rep. Lewis’ Office On US Attorney Story: Is It Wrong ‘For Politicians To Be Involved In Politics?’
The office of Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) says the Wall Street Journal story suggesting the congressman improperly blocked a pick for US Attorney is no story at all.

As Seen On TV! Birthermercial Asks, Where Was Obama Really Born?
A new birther infomercial running on a CBS affiliate in Texas and elsewhere around the country tells viewers a “got a birth certificate?” bumper sticker can be theirs for the low price of $30.


Lack of Foresight?

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on September 26th, 2009 4:38 am by HL

Lack of Foresight?


Israel-Palestine: Obama Wants “Final Status” Negotiations Now

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on September 26th, 2009 4:37 am by HL

Israel-Palestine: Obama Wants “Final Status” Negotiations Now
The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) seems not to have watched President Obama’s televised statement following his meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas. AIPAC issued a statement citing “dramatic steps” the Netanyahu…


Sponsored Topics: Mahmoud AbbasMiddle EastBarack ObamaAmerican Israel Public Affairs CommitteeBenjamin Netanyahu

Bill Clinton: CEO of the Global Problems Industry
After a very long security sweep of the Sheraton Hotel & Towers conference space, I finally made my way in to get credentialed for the Clinton Global Initiative, opening this afternoon with a powerhouse panel chaired by the 42nd President…



Sponsored Topics: Bill ClintonUnited StatesBarack ObamaPresidentsHistory

Gingrich: The Right’s Moment Has Arrived
Writing in today’s Washington Times, Newt Gingrich declares that “it may seem hard to believe, but the conservative hour in America has once again arrived.” “Seven months after Barack Obama was inaugurated, the left has so mismanaged its opportunity that…


Sponsored Topics: Newt GingrichWashington TimesConservatismPoliticsUnited States


Rules of the Playground

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on September 26th, 2009 4:36 am by HL

Rules of the Playground

“At school, on the playground, you can’t just play with one friend,” Remy complains. “You have to be friends with everyone. Sometimes, I just want to play with Gabe.” As I write those words down, I wish I could adequately convey Remy’s full, pouty lips, his pained blue eyes, his soft, rounded cheeks, and the concave little slump of his shoulders as he conveys to me that this set of negotiations on the playground is really, really hard for him to figure out. When I ask what he plays on the playground, he explains, “I play kickball, because it’s not something you can do with just one person.” And this, of course, is part of why games like kickball and tag and four square are good for the playground, precisely because they are group activities, and can pretty easily absorb a lot of kids’ participation.

Maybe one of the mind-blowing discoveries of parenthood is this: being nice isn’t always natural. It requires practice, it requires learning some rules. Just because a child isn’t always kind, doesn’t make him or her an unkind or not nice person. But humans are sometimes cranky, sometimes rude, and sometimes just don’t like someone or don’t want to do the task at hand. I’m not sure why I found this so surprising, because I don’t always feel nice; I don’t always want to be nice, or do what’s on the agenda, either.

Still, being a parent, you have to think about these things from a whole new angle. You are the teacher, the role model and the arbiter, to some degree, of the lines in the sand (in the spot on the beach or sandbox where your children play). You have to draw your lines, and sometimes, you find yourself negotiating with other grown-up parents (or, as Saskia, 19 months, calls them, “growm-ups”) about those lines’ intersections with their children’s lines.

When Remy complained about the be-friends-with-everyone demand at school, I found myself remembering a story from my childhood–one of those signature tales of Sarah as a kid–from when I was four. My mother had a neighbor she felt sorry for (not sure why, divorce maybe) and so she invited the neighbor’s kid over to play. I did not want to play with the neighbor’s kid. I sat on the stairs that rose up from the front hallway (beige carpet, beige and white wallpaper) and declared (to my mother’s chagrin), “You invited her; you play with her.” At four, a rounded little girl with dark hair and dark eyes and a pretty commanding pout myself, I’m sure it was like Remy’s complaint; beyond the words themselves, you needed to see the full body in action, hear the distressed, whiny voice pleading its case.

To Remy, I offered a hug, and these words: “Playing kickball sounds like a really good choice.” I also said, “It’s hard not to get to be with just Gabe, but you have a lot of time away from school to spend with him.” That’s an imperfect answer–and the only one I can offer, because the play-with-everyone rule seems like an important one (besides, I don’t make the rules at school).

While I have no hard and fast “rule” myself–and with four very different kids, at different stages, I have learned hard and fast “rules” don’t hold anyway, for myriad reasons–about playing with other kids, for the most part with Remy (lovely, often cranky boy), I expect him to go to school–and beyond that, I don’t schedule too many other activities or demand that he have play dates (unless he asks for them). (Well, sometimes, I have him read to me, which isn’t always his top choice). And sometimes, I find myself feeling a little bit like the lines I draw don’t intersect easily with others’ (say, people whose kids want to play outside of school with Remy more than he desires play time with them). My “job” is to respect and protect my child and teach him to be kind and respectful to others, and to understand that he can have his boundaries and be a kind person at the same time. I trust that my shepherding both his safety and his respect for others’ feelings will give him the security and freedom eventually to operate in the world as a kind, compassionate, self-confident adult (fingers crossed). It’s complicated to learn to become a person out in the world, even a generally sweet, friendly community, that’s for sure.

**

Which leads me to this question: is civility an old-fashioned concept? The question may sound trite, but as I watched the brouhaha unfold after Representative Joe Wilson called out President Obama as a liar during the President’s address, I found myself less wrapped up in whether the congressman should be reprimanded or not than saddened that either dirty tactics seem to be fair game to the most conservative branch of the Republican party or that a self-censor button is breaking down between us as humans and we now feel entitled to treat one another poorly, even in situations where respect has been considered an essential part of how we proceed (for, while the English argue vociferously in Parliament–and sometimes, rudely–in the United States, custom on the House floor has been to disagree in more gentile fashion with my friend, Representative so-and-so from the Great State of wherever).

There were many commentaries following that incident–including President Obama’s joking with David Letterman about it–and the questions boiled down to whether the Congressman’s remark was part of a larger political tactic or an outburst of racism. One friend pointed out that local news coverage where she lives (Philadelphia) refers to the President as Mr. Obama. She remarked, “I don’t remember the news outlets calling President Bush, Mr. Bush.” There’s a line between being overly sensitive and keeping a vigilant eye on ensuring that harsh words don’t spin out of control: toward disregard for others or toward violence. My friend’s question–as was true of others’ questions after that Joe Wilson incident–serves to keep sight of that line, and on what side of it we–the collective we–are standing.

**

Keeping that idea of the line in mind, take Alex Merritt, a high school student in suburban Minneapolis. According to an article in Newsweek, Merritt was not a kid people teased or messed with; a solidly built teen, he managed to avoid social “speed bumps,” until he enrolled in a vocational program a few periods a day during his junior year of high school, that is. From the Newsweek article: “”Kids were calling me fag, they were calling me queer,'” recalls Merritt, who says that he is straight. The Minnesota native, then 16, says that he initially decided to laugh along with the verbal attacks, hoping they would disappear. Instead, he says they escalated.” And here’s a critical piece of information: “In a damning report issued by the Minnesota Department of Human Rights and made public last month, the alleged incidents at STEP were perpetrated by social-studies instructor Diane Cleveland and Walter Filson, a former cop who taught a course on law enforcement.”

Painful as it is to imagine kids inflicting hurt like this upon other kids, it’s even worse to imagine teachers inflicting such intolerance and cruelty upon their students.

With weak protections in many states, and a lot of fear in many school districts about stepping forward with “rainbow” programming to dispel bias, for fear of conservative parents’ uproar, it’s no surprise that according to GLSEN (Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network), the percentage of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender middle and high school students who report harassment has hovered above 80 percent since 1999, the first year the New York-based group conducted surveys to learn about school climates.

**

Politeness in formal settings–the Halls of Congress, a classroom–does not guarantee safe or kind behavior on the playground, on the street, or in the public bathroom. Formality–addressing the President as the President or the teachers by their full names–also does not assure politeness. But somehow, I feel there’s a relationship between acting in good faith–with respect–and treating each other well. Teachers, congressional leaders, parents alike owe one another–and the younger generations–that show of respect, that modeling of respect.

I don’t think it’s simple, any of this, especially when things like racism or homophobia come into the mix. But I’m hoping–as a parent and a woman and a citizen–that we take respect seriously. It seems like the starting point toward tolerance, the baseline.


ThinkFast: September 25, 2009

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on September 26th, 2009 4:35 am by HL

ThinkFast: September 25, 2009
UPDATE: The Finance Committee announced that the public option debate will not take place today. Instead, it is scheduled to occur on Tuesday. The public option is expected to be voted on today in the Senate Finance Committee’s health care mark-up. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) explained yesterday, “Tomorrow is the opening day in our big fight, […]

healthcarenow

UPDATE: The Finance Committee announced that the public option debate will not take place today. Instead, it is scheduled to occur on Tuesday.

The public option is expected to be voted on today in the Senate Finance Committee’s health care mark-up. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) explained yesterday, “Tomorrow is the opening day in our big fight, but it is going to be a fight that goes down all the way to the wire.” A new NYT/CBS poll finds 65 percent of Americans support a public option.

“House leaders Thursday released CBO estimates for liberals’ preferred version of the public option that show $85 billion more in savings than for the version the Blue Dogs prefer,” CongressDaily reports. “Rep. Stephanie Herseth Sandlin (D-S.D.) a Blue Dog co-chair, said any possible new momentum toward a public option tethered to Medicare rates is, in part, ‘because of the cost issue’ and the updated CBO score.”

The International Atomic Energy Agency has confirmed that Iran revealed the existence of a second uranium enrichment plant. U.S. officials said they “had been tracking the covert project for years.” President Obama has “decided to make public the American findings after Iran discovered, in recent weeks, that Western intelligence agencies had breached the secrecy surrounding the project.”

In an interview with CBS’s 60 Minutes, Gen. Stanley McChrystal said that the spread of the violence in Afghanistan was worse than he expected. Asked if things are better or worse than he expected since his arrival a few months ago, the general replies, ” I think that in some areas that the breadth of the violence, the geographic spread of violence, is a little more than I would have gathered.”

A new USA Today/Gallup poll has found that 50 percent of Americans oppose sending more troops to Afghanistan. Sixty-five percent supported President Obama’s decision in February to send nearly 20,000 more troops there.

As flood waters continue to ravage Georgia, the U.S. Geological Survey is calling the natural disaster a “once in 500 years flood.” Vice President Joe Biden will travel to Georgia today to help coordinate a federal response with local and state leaders.

A new study by climate researchers reports that the planet is likely to warm by 6.3 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century even if global leaders fulfill their most ambitious pledges on carbon reduction. Robert Correll, one of the researchers who conducted the study, said that “we’re not going in the right direction” on reducing carbon emissions quickly enough.

New Mexico’s largest utility, PNM, yesterday announced that it was dropping out of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce because of the group’s refusal to support climate change legislation. “[W]e have decided that we can be most productive by working with organizations that share our view on the need for thoughtful, reasonable climate change legislation,” said PNM in a statement.

“With four months left to meet its self-imposed deadline for closing the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay,” the Obama administration “has shifted its leadership team on the issue,” taking White House Counsel Gregory Craig off the lead of the project. A White House official tells ABC News that “not every” detainee will be out of Guantanamo by the President’s January 22nd deadline for closing the prison.

And finally: Former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay isn’t the only politician strapping on a pair of dancing shoes. Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA) will be taking part in “Dancing with The Tacoma Stars”, a fundraiser for a local theater group, on Sept. 26. Smith and the other “stars” have been practicing for weeks, and Smith has even taken his daughter along for some extra assistance. “Losing is perfectly OK and 100 percent expected,” he told a reporter.

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President Obama Delivers Remarks on Iran’s Nuclear Facilities

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on September 26th, 2009 4:33 am by HL

President Obama Delivers Remarks on Iran’s Nuclear Facilities
SPEAKERS: PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA FRENCH PRESIDENT NICOLAS SARKOZY PRIME MINISTER OF THE UNITED KINGDOM GORDON BROWN [*] OBAMA: Good morning. We are here to announce that yesterday in Vienna, the United States, the United Kingdom and France presented detailed evidence to the IAEA demonstrating…

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Health-Care Bill Stands to Be Picked Apart in the Senate
At precisely 11:53 a.m. Friday, after a full week of debate on his bill to refashion the nation’s health-care system, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) rose from his chair and silently slipped out the back door.

Justice Dept. to Address Backlog of Civil Rights Complaints
There is the ongoing review of the death of a man beaten by four white teenagers in a park in Shenandoah, Pa. The kids, all high school football players, shouted, “Go back to Mexico,” before one punched him repeatedly with a metal shank balled up in his fist, according to witnesses. Then, another…

Senate Panel Breaks for Weekend Without Tackling Public Option
Senators debating a much-watched bill that would overhaul the nation’s health-care system broke for the weekend Friday without tackling an issue that has split the American public: whether the government should sponsor a insurance plan to compete with private insurers.


News May Strengthen Obama’s Bid for Dialogue

Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on September 26th, 2009 4:30 am by HL

News May Strengthen Obama’s Bid for Dialogue
Simon Tisdall, Guardian

Obama’s Deal Won’t Stop Iran’s Nukes
Con Coughlin, Daily Telegraph

Obama’s Post-Allied America
Abe Greenwald, Weekly Standard