Monday, November 25, 2013

Susan Rice meets Hamid Karzai as tensions rise over troops agreement - 11/25/2013 - G | Washington's fleeting Latin America pivot - 11/25/2013 - GP | Ukraine hit by media censorship and cyber attacks - 11/25/2013 - GP

Iran's Nuclear Triumph - 11/25/2013 - WSJ | INFORMATION AGE: Snowden and His Fellow Fantasists - Declassified NSA documents disprove his claim that he could legally wiretap anyone - WSJ


Iran's Nuclear Triumph

Tehran can continue to enrich uranium at 10,000 working centrifuges.

Updated Nov. 24, 2013 10:18 p.m. ET
President Obama is hailing a weekend accord that he says has "halted the progress of the Iranian nuclear program," and we devoutly wish this were true. The reality is that the agreement in Geneva with five Western nations takes Iran a giant step closer to becoming a de facto nuclear power.

Start with the fact that this "interim" accord fails to meet the terms of several United Nations resolutions, which specify no sanctions relief until Iran suspends all uranium enrichment. Under this deal Iran gets sanctions relief, but it does not have to give up its centrifuges that enrich uranium, does not have to stop enriching, does not have to transfer control of its enrichment stockpiles, and does not have to shut down its plutonium reactor at Arak.

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Editorial page editor Paul Gigot on Congressional support for sanctions. Plus, does the deal make an Israeli strike more likely? Photos: Getty Images

Mr. Obama's weekend statement glossed over these canyon-sized holes. He said Iran "cannot install or start up new centrifuges," but it already has about 10,000 operational centrifuges that it can continue to spin for at least another six months. Why does Tehran need so many centrifuges if not to make a bomb at the time it pleases?

The President also said that "Iran has committed to halting certain levels of enrichment and neutralizing part of its stockpiles." He is referring to an Iranian pledge to oxidize its 20% enriched uranium stockpile. But this too is less than reassuring because the process can be reversed and Iran retains a capability to enrich to 5%, which used to be a threshold we didn't accept because it can easily be reconverted to 20%.

Mr. Obama said "Iran will halt work at its plutonium reactor," but Iran has only promised not to fuel the reactor even as it can continue other work at the site. That is far from dismantling what is nothing more than a bomb factory. North Korea made similar promises in a similar deal with Condoleezza Rice during the final Bush years, but it quickly returned to bomb-making.

As for inspections, Mr. Obama hailed "extensive access" that will "allow the international community to verify whether Iran is keeping its commitments." One problem is that Iran hasn't ratified the additional protocol to its International Atomic Energy Agency agreement that would allow inspections on demand at such sites as Parchin, which remain off limits. Iran can also oust U.N. inspectors at any time, much as North Korea did.

Then there is the sanctions relief, which Mr. Obama says is only "modest" but which reverses years of U.S. diplomacy to tighten and enforce them. The message is that the sanctions era is over. The loosening of the oil regime is especially pernicious, inviting China, India and Germany to get back to business with Iran.

We are told that all of these issues will be negotiated as part of a "final" accord in the next six months, but that is not how arms control works. It is far more likely that this accord will set a precedent for a series of temporary deals in which the West will gradually ease more sanctions in return for fewer Iranian concessions.

Iran will threaten to walk away from the talks without new concessions, and Mr. Obama will not want to acknowledge that his diplomatic achievement wasn't real. The history of arms control is that once it is underway the process dominates over substance, and a Western leader who calls a halt is denounced for risking war. The negotiating advantage lies with the dictatorship that can ignore domestic opinion.

Mr. Obama all but admitted this himself by noting that "only diplomacy can bring about a durable solution to the challenge posed by Iran's nuclear program." He added that "I have a profound responsibility to try to resolve our differences peacefully, rather than rush towards conflict." Rush to conflict? Iran's covert nuclear program was uncovered a decade ago, and the West has been desperately trying to avoid military action.

Iran nuclear talks at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Sunday, Nov. 24, 2013. Associated Press

The best that can be said is that the weekend deal slows for a few weeks Iran's rapid progress to a nuclear breakout. But the price is that at best it sets a standard that will allow Iran to become a nuclear-capable regime that stops just short of exploding a bomb. At worst, it will allow Iran to continue to cheat and explode a bomb whenever it is strategically convenient to serve its goal of dominating the Middle East.

This seems to be the conclusion in Tehran, where Foreign Minister Javad Zarif boasted that the deal recognizes Iran's right to enrich uranium while taking the threat of Western military action off the table. Grand Ayatollah Ali Khameini also vouchsafed his approval, only days after he denounced the U.S. and called Jews "rabid dogs."

Israel has a different view of the deal, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu calling it a "historic mistake." He and his cabinet will now have to make their own calculations about the risks of unilateral military action. Far from having Israel's back, as Mr. Obama likes to say, the U.S. and Europe are moving to a strategy of trying to contain Israel rather than containing Iran. The French also fell into line as we feared they would under U.S. and media pressure.

Mr. Obama seems determined to press ahead with an Iran deal regardless of the details or damage. He views it as a legacy project. A President has enormous leeway on foreign policy, but Congress can signal its bipartisan unhappiness by moving ahead as soon as possible to strengthen sanctions. Mr. Obama warned Congress not to do so in his weekend remarks, but it is the only way now to stop the President from accommodating a nuclear Iran. 



Snowden and His Fellow Fantasists - WSJ

Declassified NSA documents disprove his claim that he could legally wiretap anyone.


Nov. 24, 2013 6:52 p.m. ET
Edward Snowden thought he was exposing the National Security Agency's lawless spying on Americans. But the more information emerges about how the NSA conducts surveillance, the clearer it becomes that this is an agency obsessed with complying with the complex rules limiting its authority. Contrary to the fantasies of Mr. Snowden and other critics, the NSA may be dangerously risk-averse.

Last week the NSA responded to demands for disclosure by declassifying a 2,000-page trove of documents, including reports to Congress and internal training materials. They portray an agency acting under the watchful eye of hundreds of lawyers and compliance officers.

These documents disprove one of Mr. Snowden's central claims: "I, sitting at my desk, certainly had the authority to wiretap anyone, from you or your accountant, to a federal judge, to even the president if I had a personal email," he told the Guardian, a British newspaper.

Hardly. A 131-page PowerPoint deck, used to train NSA officers, details constitutional and regulatory limits on the agency. It emphasizes that warrants are required to access emails or calls involving Americans. One slide warns: "Under NO circumstances may the substantive content of communications be received."

A 52-page directive issued in 2011, "Legal Compliance and U.S. Persons Minimization Procedures," outlines how to avoid emails or phone calls involving Americans. Another training slide warns: "No matter how inconvenient the rules may seem, if we fail to adhere to them, the next set of rules will be far stricter."

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The NSA also released the legal arguments the Justice Department used in 2006 to justify collection of phone metadata—the telephone number of the calling and called parties and the date, time and duration of the call.

The legal brief explained that the collection of metadata solves "the following fundamental problem: Although investigators do not know exactly where the terrorists' communications are hiding in the billions of telephone calls flowing through the U.S. today, we do know that they are there, and if we archive the data now, we will be able to use it in a targeted way to find the terrorists tomorrow."

Metadata collection is about connecting the dots linking potential terrorist accomplices. The Clinton administration created barriers to the use of metadata, which the 9/11 Commission concluded let the terrorists avoid detection. Since then, metadata has helped stop dozens of plots, including an Islamist plan to blow up the New York Stock Exchange in 2008.

The Supreme Court this month refused to hear a legal challenge to the collection of phone logs. In 1979, the court held that there is no legitimate expectation of privacy in records of phone calls (as opposed to the calls themselves). The declassified brief from 2006 made clear that such metadata "would never even be seen by any human being unless a terrorist connection were first established," estimating that "0.000025% or one in four million" of the call records "actually would be seen by a trained analyst."

To get approval for a query to test connections among phone numbers, analysts must get approval from one of seven top NSA officials. Listening to the content of calls requires a warrant from a judge.

These privacy protections are poorly understood. Stanford security expert Amy Zegart, who conducted a recent opinion poll, reported on the Lawfare blog that "39% of respondents still erroneously believe (after consistently hearing otherwise from intelligence officials) that the NSA's bulk telephone 'metadata' program includes call content." The only cases so far of NSA officers intentionally violating the rules—other than Edward Snowden—were a dozen cases of agency staff spying on their love interests.

The disclosures by the NSA may begin to set the record straight, but the truth must overcome months of disinformation. Last week, veteran investigative reporter Bob Woodward told Larry King he wished Mr. Snowden "had come to me instead of others, particularly the Guardian" with the documents he took. Mr. Woodward said he would have tried to "sort it out and present it in a coherent way." Instead, "people are confused about whether it's illegal, whether it's bad," Mr. Woodward said, adding, "I certainly wouldn't call him a hero."

This month, new FBI head James Comey told a congressional hearing that the NSA is "obsessed with compliance." Matthew Olsen, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, recently worried at a Georgetown Law conference that "some of the operators may be reluctant to go up the line and take full advantage of the legal authorities we have" due to the "controversies now swirling."

Before the Snowden leaks put the NSA on the defensive, the agency was making the case for more power to gather anonymous data to identify terrorists. That's the debate we should be having.

Drug Control Policies are Changing: Why? And Why Has it Taken So Long?

Drug Control Policies are Changing: Why? And Why Has it Taken So Long?

By  on November 25, 2013 

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Administrations at local, national and international level are busy reforming laws, strategies and programmes for controlling psychoactive drugs such as cannabis, cocaine and heroin. Many are challenging the principles of a set of international treaties developed and agreed upon during the 20th century, that had as their central principle the absolute prohibition of the production, distribution and consumption of a wide range of psychoactive substances for recreational (as opposed to medical or scientific) use.
While many authorities (most notably in the Netherlands) have turned a blind eye to aspects of the recreational drug market, or just did not have the resources to react, recent developments have been notable in that they are openly challenging the validity of the global drug control system. The Bolivian government has refused to continue complying with the global prohibition on coca leaf; two US states (Washington and Colorado) are in the process of setting up a legally regulated market for cannabis (and seem sure to be followed by others in the next few years); and Uruguay looks destined to become the first country to implement a national regime for the legal production and consumption of cannabis.
These significant reforms – coupled with a trend in many parts of the world to approach drug use as a public health and social care challenge, rather than a crime to be punished – come from a wide range of motivations, but are unified by a shared belief that the prohibition regime has failed to reduce the drug related problems that matter to citizens. That is to say, violence, intimidation, corruption, addiction, overdose deaths, and infections such as HIV and Hepatitis. Indeed, there is compelling evidence that the implementation of repressive policies has actually made these problems worse.
Authoritative voices such as the Organisation of American States, in a landmark report published earlier this year and the Global Commission on Drug Policy  have declared that the ‘war on drugs’ has failed, and that new approaches are needed. Few thinking people can disagree with that assessment, with the scale and diversity of illicit drug markets continuing to grow in all parts of the world, despite successive international agreements that have set out to achieve the eradicate those markets.
The International Drug Policy Consortium is currently working with governments on a mid-term review of a 2009 United Nations Political Declaration that had the headline objective of eradicating or significantly reducing the scale of supply of, and demand for, illegal drugs. The UN’s own assessment, contained in the 2013 World Drug Report is that, while markets have reduced slightly for some drugs in some countries, this is far outweighed by the upward trends in ‘established’ forms of drug use in other regions – for example heroin use in Central Asia and cocaine use in Latin America – the widespread abuse of new synthetically produced substances, and increasing diversion of medically prescribed drugs on to the illicit market.
With the overall scale of illicit global drug markets clearly not reducing, the level of associated harms continues to have deep impacts on key areas of international concern:
  • In terms of development, there are many communities and countries where the existence of a large and profitable drug market undermines legitimate social and economic development, and the rule of law. The most recently notable cases are Afghanistan, Guinea-Bissau, Mali and Mexico, but this process takes place on a smaller scale in poor urban and rural communities around the world.
  • In terms of security, tens of millions of people are living in communities where violence and intimidation associated with the drug market is endemic, whether through battles between drug producers and traffickers and the authorities, or through the ‘turf wars’ that are constantly present in both wholesale and retail drug markets.
  • In terms of health, the WHO burden of disease report shows that addiction, overdose, Hepatitis and HIV rates arising from drug use represent a significant proportion of disease and mortality, particularly amongst younger people.
Of further concern is that, in each of these domains, the international community’s attempts to impose strong punitive approaches to drug distribution and use have in many aspects actually exacerbating these harms. For example, public health strategies to reverse HIV epidemics amongst drug users have been proven for many years now, and endorsed by the WHO and the UN General Assembly, but many countries have not implemented them because they involve taking a tolerant and supportive, rather than tough and condemnatory, approach to drug users. Similarly, attempts by governments to engage in a kind of arms race with drug trafficking organisations in an attempt to defeat them, have only led to higher rates of violence, and the creation of the conditions where only the strongest and most violent drug traffickers can thrive.
Given the evident problems with the global drug control system, why has change not happened more quickly? There are many interconnected reasons – the attraction of ‘tough on drugs’ as a political slogan, the usefulness of blaming drug markets for more complex and entrenched social problems and inequalities, the potential for using concern about drugs to intervene in citizens privacy or the affairs of other countries, and the protectionist position of institutions built up and resourced on the back of drug control concerns.
But there is also the natural inertia written into international agreements – there is clearly no international consensus on the way forward for drug control policy. Some countries now seem willing to move away from what they see as the ‘straitjacket’ imposed by the old treaties, while others are equally determined to continue a ‘zero tolerance’ prohibition. In these circumstances, and with a continuing strong belief in shared responsibility – the idea that the global drug problem must be tackled multilaterally – member state negotiations in this area are bound to take on a kafka-esque quality.  Compromise statements are made that must be based on the wording in treaties agreed 50 years ago while, in the real world, the shape and scale of illicit drug markets, and our responses to them, change beyond all recognition.
IDPC is calling on the UN and member states to use the period running up to a General Assembly Special Session on Drugs in 2016, to carefully design a revised international framework agreement that allows and supports national governments to pursue strategies in their territories that are effective in responding to the diversity of 21st century drug markets.
Mike Trace is a criminologist and addiction treatment expert who has worked for 15 years on drug policy within the UK, and in multilateral settings. He was the Deputy UK Drug ‘Czar for 5 years under the Blair government, the President of the EMCDDA (the European Union Drugs Agency) for 3 years, and briefly the Chief of Demand Reduction at the Vienna-based UN Office on Drugs and Crime. Since leaving the United Nations, he has continued his charity work as the Chief Executive of RAPt, a major UK drug rehabilitation charity, and by establishing and supporting several initiatives aimed at strengthening the involvement of civil society organisations and experts in drug policy reform debates – most notably the International Drug Policy Consortium whose website ( contains comprehensive information and updates on drug policy politics issues worldwide.

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Jackson Free Press
Statistics from the Drug Policy Alliance show that law-enforcement agencies spend approximately $50 billion on the drug war and that 1.55 million people were arrested in 2012 for nonviolent drug offenses. In addition, two-thirds of people incarcerated ...

Huffington Post
Washington isn't exactly known for its bipartisan spirit these days, but on Wednesday, Reps. Bobby Scott (D-Va.) and Raul Labrador (R-Idaho) became the latest pair of politicians to reach across the party divide in an effort to scale back the country's ...

Greenpeace Protest: Last Brit Freed From Jail - 11/25/2013 - | 25/11/13 06:28 from World news: World news + Video | Mexican film-maker Adriana Trujillo tells the story of Felix, a part-time actor who earns his money smuggling people across the walled and fenced frontier between Mexico and the United States | 'Great Satan' meets 'Axis of Evil' and strikes a deal - Reuters

» Felix: the Mexican people-smuggler - video
25/11/13 06:28 from World news: World news + Video |
Mexican film-maker Adriana Trujillo tells the story of Felix, a part-time actor who earns his money smuggling people across the walled and fenced frontier between Mexico and the United States. 
Felix employs Americans, often down-and-out army veterans [?! - M.N.], to smuggle Latinos across the frontier in the false bottoms of cars driving through border controls

» REFILE-SPECIAL REPORT-'Great Satan' meets 'Axis of Evil' and strikes a deal - Reuters
25/11/13 06:12 from Top Stories - Google News
Washington Post REFILE-SPECIAL REPORT-'Great Satan' meets 'Axis of Evil' and strikes a deal Reuters (Changes Iraq to Iran in 46th paragraph). By Louis Charbonneau, Parisa Hafezi and Arshad Mohammed. GENEVA Nov 25 (Reuters...

» Investigators to Release Report on Sandy Hook Shooting - NBC New York
25/11/13 06:07 from Top Stories - Google News
Washington Post Investigators to Release Report on Sandy Hook Shooting NBC New York Investigators are planning to release a long-awaited report on the Newtown school shooting, nearly a year after the massacre of 20 children and six women...

Published on Nov 25, 2013
The White House says President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu discussed the nuclear deal with Iran. It says the President assured Netanyahu that the US and Israel both want to keep Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. (Nov. 25)

Published on Nov 24, 2013
A police evidence room in shambles - lost rape kits and nearly 200 more that were never tested or investigated. That's what sheriff's investigators found in Robbins, Ill which only has a part-time police department. (Nov. 25)

» Police keep close eye on reports of disturbing knockout game - KCTV5 - KCTV Kansas City
24/11/13 18:05 from Top Stories - Google News
ABC News Police keep close eye on reports of disturbing knockout game - KCTV5 KCTV Kansas City NEW YORK (CNN) - A sick so-called game known as "knockout" -- where teens appear to randomly sucker-punch strangers with the goal of...

Terrifying teen 'knockout' game assaults spreading

Posted: 2013-11-22 16:55:00 
Updated: 2013-11-24 17:22:29 

NEW YORK (CNN) -A sick so-called game known as "knockout" -- where teens appear to randomly sucker-punch strangers with the goal of knocking them unconscious with a single blow -- is catching the attention of law enforcement throughout the nation.
The assaults can be fatal. In New Jersey, Ralph Santiago, 46, a homeless man, was walking alone in Hoboken on the night of September 10 when he was suddenly struck from behind, said Hoboken Detective Anthony Caruso.
The blow knocked out Santiago, who had a pre-existing brain injury. He suffered a seizure. The victim's body struck a nearby fence, with part of the wrought iron fence piercing his body and killing him, Caruso said.
Surveillance video in the area showed three teens running from the scene. Two weeks later, police arrested the juveniles and charged them in connection with the killing. Caruso said the attack was unprovoked.
Authorities have reported similar incidents in New York, Illinois, Missouri and Washington.
One of the latest attacks happened Friday, when someone was allegedly punched on a street in Brooklyn. Police brought four men in for questioning and arrested 28-year-old Amrit Marajh.
Marajh is charged with aggravated assault as a hate crime, assault as a hate crime and assault in the 3rd degree, police said. He was arraigned Saturday, according to Mia Goldberg, spokeswoman for the Kings County District Attorney's Office.
Youth violence expert Chuck Williams blamed the media and parents for what he called extreme aggression by America's youth. Negative attention, he said, is often rewarded.
"That's America. America loves violence and so do our kids," Williams said. "We market violence to our children and we wonder why they're violent. It's because we are."
Williams, a professor of psychology and education at Drexel University in Philadelphia, said some young people are desperate for attention. He called it the "Miley Cyrus effect," where teens will do anything to get noticed, no matter how heinous or unconscionable.
"These kids know the consequences," he said. "They want to get arrested. They want to get caught, because they want that notoriety. They know they won't go away forever because they're kids. It's a win-win all around for them."
In New York, police noted seven "knockout" incidents this fall alone. Some of the incidents were allegedly directed specifically at Jewish people and thus classified as hate crimes, said police spokesman Sgt. Brendan Ryan.
Despite the recent assaults, Ryan cautioned that police in New York haven't yet seen evidence of a "knockout" trend.
"We know that NYPD, and especially the Hate Crime Task Force, are working swiftly to find the alleged perpetrators of these incidents," said Evan Bernstein, the Anti-Defamation League's New York regional director, referring to a spate of assaults in parts of Brooklyn.
Rabbi Yaacov Behrman, a resident of Brooklyn's Crown Heights neighborhood and executive director of the Jewish Future Alliance, said many of the assault victims are children. Behrman met with black leaders last week to discuss the issue.
"Kids talk, especially on social media. There's a buzz about this," said Behrman.
New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly on Wednesday deployed additional police officers to Crown Heights, a Brooklyn neighborhood where eight "knockout" attacks have occurred, including an assault on a 78-year-old woman, police said.
In Pittsburgh, police spokeswoman Diane Richard said reports of the "knockout" game in the area first surfaced last year.
In October 2012, an English teacher was strolling through an alley in Pittsburgh to his parked car, Richard said. The teacher, James Addlespurger, 50, was approached by a group of teens, Richard said.
One of the teens punched Addlespurger in the face. The teacher fell and struck his head on the concrete ground. The assault, like so many others, was caught on video surveillance tape, and a 15-year-old was later arrested, Richard said. It is unclear whether the assault was part of a specific game.
Kelly, the New York police commissioner, said he is concerned about copycats in his city in the wake of recent news reports.
"When you highlight an incident or a type of criminal activity, some people will simply try to copy it," the commissioner said Friday. "It's a phenomenon we've seen before."
Republican New York State Assemblyman Jim Tedisco on Wednesday proposed new legislation he's calling the "Knockout Assault Deterrent Act," calling for juveniles charged with the random assaults to be tried as adults.
"Violence like this should not be condoned no matter the age of the offender," Tedisco said in a statement. "Youth should not be an excuse for this kind of behavior."
At the same time, Detective Brian Sessa said that it "is yet to be determined" whether the alleged assaults in New York were isolated or part of a larger phenomenon. And since Santiago's death in Hoboken, police there said they have not seen any other such incidents in the area.
Richard warned that people who seem distracted -- checking smartphones or listening to music while walking -- can be more vulnerable to assaults.
In New York last week, Jewish and African-American community leaders met in an effort to smooth relations among young people. "Knockout" assaults were a big part of the discussion.
"To go around and harm just anybody on the premise that you want to show your bravado is not to be accepted in our community, in Crown Heights, in Brownsville or anywhere else for that matter," community activist Tony Herbert told CNN affiliate WCBS. "Keep your hands to yourself. That is stupid."
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