Thursday, October 29, 2009

Iran's conditions push nuclear deal close to collapse

• Tehran wants to hand over uranium only in batches
• Move represents blow to US policy of engagement

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad with the director of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei

Hopes of a diplomatic breakthrough over Iran's nuclear programme were dwindling tonight after Tehran demanded changes to a uranium exchange deal that European diplomats described as "unacceptable".

If the deal collapses, as seemed likely, the apparent progress made over Tehran's nuclear programme in recent weeks would evaporate, the diplomats said. It would deliver another critical blow to the Obama administration's policy of engagement, and put international sanctions and Israeli military action back on the table.

The uranium deal, agreed in principle in Geneva at the beginning of the month, involved Iran shipping out most of its enriched uranium and, in return, being provided about a year later with fuel rods for its research reactor in Tehran.

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What to expect if Blair is made President of Europe

This morning the Guardian reported that this evening's summit in Brussels will likely be the first occasion in which the subject of Tony Blair's candidacy to be Europe's first president is broached.

Having lived under Blair's regime in England for many years, I can say that in many ways he is the embodiment of European politics (and I do not mean that positively). Many Americans are simply unaware of the paradigm constitutional shifts that occurred in Britain during Blair's administration. Yet such awareness ought to be at the forefront of public debate if Blair is indeed going to occupy the position of European president.

When Tony Blair first came to power, he promised to be tough on crime. Only in retrospect could we have understood the reality behind these words. Mr. Blair would indeed be tough on crime, but he would do so by creating thousands of new offenses, eroding hundred year old civil liberties, criminalizing a plethora of previously legal activities and altering the very structure of British common law.

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What Hillary Clinton Should Say In Pakistan This Week

by Amanda Kloer

Hillary Clinton is on day two of her official three day visit to Pakistan, the first of her career as Secretary of State. I'm pretty sure that while she's there, she'll remember to talk about terrorism and the Taliban. I hope she might even slip in a comment or two about women's rights. But will Clinton mention the rampant debt bondage and slavery that makes modern Pakistan look more like 11th century Europe than a modern nation? And next to terrorism, is that even important?

To borrow some terrorism language, the situation of debt bondage in Pakistan is quickly deteriorating from a Code Orange to a Code This-Whole-Freakin'-Country-Is-Getting-Dragged-Back-Into-the-Dark-Ages. For example, according to TIME Magazine, at least three landlords have held as many as 170 bonded farmworkers at gunpoint on their estates since late September. Most traffickers have tools other than guns to keep workers enslaved, but the fact that these traffickers can hold their victims at gunpoint for months with no government interference speaks to the impotence of the Pakistani government in addressing debt bondage. In Pakistan today, 10% of men own 90% of the land. The vast majority of farmers are somehow indentured, and many of them are caught in false debts and held under the threat of violence -- they are slaves. Debt bondage is not the exception in Pakistan. It would be the rule, if there was any system of enforcement.

The U.S. government hasn't addressed this issue with Pakistan, in part because the Taliban, Al Queda, and all the other violent and extremist goings-on look like a much bigger and more important issue than some farmers not getting their due. Well I've got news for Secretary Clinton and all the foreign policy wons who think they can ignore slavery -- ending slavery in Pakistan will go a long way towards reducing terrorism and creating a peaceful, stable Pakistan.

Here's how it works:

The feudalist system that exists in Pakistan currently is both a cause and a symptom of the political instability there. Debt bondage, corruption, exploitation, and slavery are rampant because there is no stable mechanism to enforce the rule law. In turn, when people are exploited, enslaved, and impoverished by corrupt officials, extremist factions become more attractive and they are more likely to undermine what rule of law exists. This breeds both the social and political chaos that allows radical Taliban leaders to hide in and control large chunks of the country. If Pakistan had a free working class making a living wage, the Taliban could not have gained so much strength as they have today because they would have had many fewer supporters. Slavery and terrorism in Pakistan are connected, and reducing one will help you reduce the other.

So, Secretary Clinton, what you should say in Pakistan this week is that America supports the freedom and prosperity of the Pakistani people. That slavery is unacceptable, and that everyone has a right to freely choose and be paid for work. We cannot hope to ignore slavery and battle terrorism any more than we can hope to ignore oil consumption and battle climate change or ignore fast food advertising and battle obesity. A stable Pakistan with little love for extremists is a free Pakistan.

And, Secretary Clinton, if you'd like to chat about this in person, I have no major plans this weekend and have always wanted to see Islamabad.

Obama honors 1st African-American elected to US Senate

US President Barack Obama paid tribute on Wednesday to fellow political trailblazer Edward Brooke, who in 1966 became the first African-American elected to the Senate by popular vote.

In the US Capitol rotunda, Obama presented Brooke, 90, with the Congressional gold medal, the highest civilian award given by the government's legislative branch.

"Today's honor bears a unique significance: bestowed by this body of which he was an esteemed member; presented in this place where he moved the arc of history; surrounded by so many -- myself included -- who have followed the trail that he blazed," said Obama as he stood next to the former senator from Massachusetts.

Brooke, who served as a Republican from 1967 to 1979, was the first of just three blacks popularly elected to the Senate in the modern era, including Carol Mosely Braun (1993 to 1999) and Obama himself (2005-2008).

Other African-Americans had previously served in the Senate before Brooke, but they were chosen by state legislatures.

Obama, a Democrat, hailed Brooke as someone who managed to navigate a fiercely segregated America and "spent his life breaking barriers and bridging divides."

The only black senator currently serving in the upper chamber is Roland Burris, who was appointed senator from Illinois to replace Obama after he won the White House in 2008.

Shyne Officially Deported — He’s Already Touched Down In Belize

Shyne was officially deported to Belize on Wednesday (October 28), taken directly from holding to the airport in New York, where he flew to his home country.

According to local outlets, he arrived in Belize around 2:40 p.m. local time on Thursday (October 28), escorted by a U.S. Marshall following his deportation.

He was processed by local authorities at the airport, then was welcomed by his father Dean Barrow, Prime Minister of Belize, his mother Imeon Myvett and other members of his family, as well as fans.

Shyne's team told media that he would now like to be called Moses Michael Leviy to reflect his conversion to Judaism.

"Shyne is home. He wants to say how happy he is to be home and to be a free man," said the rapper's uncle, Michael Finnegan, current Minister of Housing. "He would love to have a conversation with the media, but because he was legally advised by Professor Ogletree, he must not speak to the media because he doesn't want to prejudice his situation with the US government or with the Belize government. So he asked me to ask you that he does not want to disrespect you the media, but please to understand what is going on."

Finnegan also revealed that Shyne has been given an entire floor at the Radisson Fort George Hotel to give him some privacy, until his place is set up at his uncle's house, which will take around two weeks.

"He needs some privacy, he needs not to be around anybody, he needs just to sit down in isolation and contemplate his life," his uncle explained. "I think that we need to respect that. If you notice, he has lost an extreme amount of weight."

The rapper was set to be released earlier this month, but U.S. Customs officials delayed it while they decided whether he should be deported or not.

The decision has been made, but Shyne plans to fight the decision from Belize. But, in the meantime, reports say he'll work on new music while his immigration issues are hashed out.

Rev. Wright selection sparks controversy

Rev. Jeremiah Wright, pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ (TUCC) and former spiritual mentor of democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, speaks at the Nationals Press Club in Washington on April 28, 2008. Wright spoke on black theology and its traditions throughout American history and said that the recent media attacks on himself were really attacks on the black church.

A Maryland chapter of the NAACP is drawing criticism for selecting President Barack Obama's former pastor to speak at its awards dinner, a recipient says.

Perry Ealim, a black businessman who is being honored by the Anne Arundel County NAACP, says many of his friends and associates refuse to attend the Nov. 20 dinner, the Baltimore Sun reported Wednesday.

Ealim, a Republican, says he has been told they are boycotting the dinner because Rev. Jeremiah Wright is going to be the speaker.

"I am happy for your honor, however, I cannot support an organization that would have a racist/bigot such as Mr. Wright as (its) speaker," one of Ealim's friends wrote to him.

The Rev. Wright is the former minister of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago where Obama was a longtime parishioner.

Internet videos of his sermons showed him condemning the United States and saying that the attacks of Sept. 11 were "chickens coming home to roost."

Michelle Obama, Jill Biden Attend World Series

Last night's game was ugly, but still provided plenty of star power at the opener of the World Series. No, we're not talking about A-Rod and Kate Hudson.

First Lady Michelle Obama and Vice President Joe Biden's wife, Jill, took the field during pre-game ceremonies to a big ovation, along with a Yankee legend.

Major League Baseball dedicated Game One of the Yankees-Phillies series, won by the NL champion visitors, 6-1, to the charity Welcome Back Veterans.

Mrs. Obama and Mrs. Biden escorted World War II veteran Yogi Berra - the Yankees Hall of Fame catcher - to the mound for the first-pitch ceremony.

All wore jackets with "World Series" on the front and their names on the back. Iraq war veteran Tony Odierno threw the first pitch to Derek Jeter.

Odierno, who lost an arm in Iraq, works in the Yankees' stadium operations department. His dad is Gen. Raymond Odierno, the top U.S. commander in Iraq.

Yogi Berra receives - and gets - a hand from Michelle Obama and Jill Biden.

Jill Biden is a Phillies fan. Michelle Obama, unlike her White Sox-fan husband, grew up a Cubs fan. They high-fived fans as they walked down the tunnel.

Earlier that day, Obama and Biden honored wounded veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars at the James J. Peters VA Medical Center in the Bronx.

The First Lady's message was simple but profound: We can all do a little something to honor the men and women of the military. And please, Michelle emphasized, don't forget the families they often have to leave behind while serving overseas.

"You can do something as simple as offering to drive a car pool, or offering babysitting," Obama told the room of veterans and staff members. "Above all, each of us can simply reach out and do something really small - and say thank you."

Obama weighed Hillary, worried 'bout Bill

The Rev. Jeremiah Wright and Tony Rezko also rattled the Obama campaign.

David Plouffe, left, manager of President Barack Obama's winning camapign, writes of some serious deliberations, and worries, during Obama's bid for the White House in a forthcoming book, The Audacity to Win, excerpted in Time magazine

by Mark Silva

President Barack Obama gave serious consideration to picking Hillary Rodham Clinton as his running mate - surprising even his own campaign advisers with his seriousness - but worried about Bill Clinton.

"Obama was clearly thinking more seriously about picking Hillary Clinton than (adviser David) Axelrod and I had realized," David Plouffe, the manager of Obama's presidential campaign, writes in a forthcoming book. "He said if his central criterion measured who could be the best VP, she had to be included in that list."

Although Obama considered his erstwhile rival in the Democratic Party's primaries throughout the summer of 2008, he ultimately eliminated her name from the list in early August, fearing, according to an account in Plouffe's book appearing in excerpts in Time magazine, that there "were just too many complications outweighing the potential strengths."

"I think Bill may be too big a complication,'' Plouffe quotes Obama as saying. "If I picked her, my concern is that there would be more than two of us in the relationship."

Ultimately, the president-elect named the then-senator from New York as his secretary of state - a relationship which also has been complicated by former President Bill Clinton's continuing presence on the international stage, with his Clinton Foundation and Clinton Global Initiative.

In Plouffe's book, The Audacity to Win, the president's campaign manager also reports on the crisis that emerged with the incendiary remarks of Obama's former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, coupled with the controversy surrounding Chicago power broker Tony Rezko.

"The Wright story broke on a Wednesday and exploded across the media landscape the next day,'' Plouffe writes. "We decided Obama had to take questions about ( Wright) head-on on Friday, in a series of lengthy national cable interviews.

"There was one not-so-minor complication. He was already scheduled to do editorial boards that Friday afternoon with both Chicago papers about Tony Rezko, two hours each, no holds barred. Given no choice but to address Wright as soon as possible, we decided we would do a round of TV interviews on him directly after the Rezko boards,'' Plouffe recalls.

"It shaped into quite a day, like having your legs amputated in the morning and your arms at night. The question was whether we would still have a heartbeat at the end of the day.''

Shaq seeks to become deputy sheriff in Cleveland

Shaquille O'Neal is looking to continue a sideline career in law enforcement now that he's in Ohio playing for the Cavaliers.

Spokesman John O'Brien of the Cuyahoga (ky-uh-HOH'-guh) County sheriff's office says the Cavs center has applied to become a special deputy. He would have the right to carry a gun and make arrests but not be a paid, formal employee.

O'Neal previously served roles with law enforcement agencies in Arizona, Virginia and Florida.

The sheriff has forwarded the application to the state agency that must consider the request to deputize O'Neal.

State attorney general's spokeswoman Holly Hollingsworth says that if approved, O'Neal would need 36 hours of police training and would have to take the Ohio police exam.

(This version CORRECTS Hollingsworth's title to attorney general's spokeswoman, instead of attorney general.)

Obama honors fallen Americans at Dover

President Barack Obama salutes as a carry team carries the transfer case containing the remains of Army Sgt. Dale R. Griffin of Terre Haute, Ind., who died in Afghanistan according to the Department of Defense, during a dignified transfer at Dover Air Force Base in Dover, Del., Thursday, Oct. 29, 2009.

Standing in the pre-dawn darkness, President Barack Obama saw the real cost of the war in Afghanistan: The Americans who return in flag-covered cases while much of the nation sleeps in peace.

In a surprise midnight dash to this Delaware base where U.S. forces killed overseas come home, Obama honored the return of 18 fallen Americans Thursday. All were killed in Afghanistan this week, a brutal stretch that turned October into the most deadly month for U.S. troops since the war began.

"It was a sobering reminder of the extraordinary sacrifices that our young men and women in uniform are engaging in every single day, not only our troops but their families as well," Obama said later Thursday, hours after his return to the White House. "The burden that both our troops and their families bear in any wartime situation is going to bear on how I see these conflicts, and it is something that I think about each and every day."

The dramatic image of a president on the tarmac was a portrait not witnessed in years. Former President George W. Bush said the appropriate way to show his respect for war's cost was to meet with grieving military families in private, as he often did, but he never went to Dover to observe the remains coming off the cargo plane. Obama did so with the weight of knowing he may soon send more troops off to war.

For all the talk of his potential troop increase — maybe 40,000, maybe some other large figure — Obama got a grim reminder of the number that counts: one.

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Fisher switches to Young at QB for 0-6 Titans

The owner of the Tennessee Titans wants more of Vince Young. He's getting just that with the winless Titans switching from veteran Kerry Collins back to the 2006 Offensive Rookie of the Year.

Coach Jeff Fisher announced the expected move Thursday after practice for the 0-6 Titans.

That means Young will start Sunday against Jacksonville (3-3), the team that helped send him to the bench in the 2008 opener by picking him off twice and spraining his knee. Collins started 20 of the 21 games since then.

Young has eight career interceptions against Jacksonville with only three touchdown passes. But he has won five of his last six starts, a stat that includes the end of the 2007 season.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The owner of the Tennessee Titans wants to see more of Vince Young. He's reportedly getting just that with the winless Titans making a change at quarterback from veteran Kerry Collins back to the 2006 Offensive Rookie of the Year.

Coach Jeff Fisher plans to announce the change after practice Thursday. But The Tennessean newspaper, citing anonymous sources, said on its Web site Thursday morning that Young will start Sunday against the Jaguars (3-3).

Fisher was not available an hour before practice, and the team had no immediate comment.

But Young split the work evenly with Collins at practice Wednesday. The Titans (0-6) also added John David Booty to the practice squad to do the work previously handled solely by Young.

Could `Michael Jackson's This Is It' win an Oscar?

LOS ANGELES — "Michael Jackson's This Is It" comes too late in the year to be considered for a 2009 documentary Oscar, but the film about the late King of Pop's preparations for a series of comeback concerts could qualify for other Hollywood honors this year, including the Academy Award for best picture.

The film, which opened around the globe Tuesday and Wednesday has already earned rousing praise from fans and critics, who say it restores Jackson's reputation as a world-class entertainer. It already tops the box office with $20.1 million worldwide after just one full day in theaters.

Director Kenny Ortega, a longtime Jackson collaborator who was overseeing his London concert comeback, crafted the nearly two-hour film from more than 100 hours of footage recorded during rehearsals for the London shows, which were to have begun in July. Jackson died June 25 at age 50.

"What we did here was focus on telling a good story and creating a film for the fans really enabling them to understand what Michael Jackson had dreamed for them," Ortega said Wednesday.

He added it was his hope "the audience for this film will grow and that as many people come to see it as possible because I think that it's a wonderful story about a brilliant man. ... Awards, Oscars, that's all great wishful thinking."

It may be more than wishful, said Steven Gaydos, executive editor of the Hollywood trade paper Variety and a self-described cynic. With the Academy Awards best-picture slate expanded to 10 films this year rather than the traditional five, "This Is It" could find itself among the contenders, he said.

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