Monday, October 20, 2014

Iran: Nuclear Threshold Back In Focus

With everything going on in the world today, it is easy to forget that Iran remains the most significant tipping point in the Middle East:

Netanyahu Warns World Powers: A Nuclear Threshold Iran Is A Bigger Threat Than ISIS

In an indication of the degree to which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is concerned about the direction the world’s negotiations with Iran are going, he used the naming of an entrance into Jerusalem on Sunday to warn of the danger of the Islamic Republic becoming a nuclear threshold state.

“We are standing before the danger of an agreement [between the world powers and Iran] that will leave Iran as a nuclear threshold state, with thousands of centrifuges through which Iran can manufacture the material for a nuclear bomb within a short period of time,” he said at the naming of Road No. 9 into Jerusalem near Motza after former prime minister Yitzhak Shamir.

“This is a threat to the entire world, first and foremost to Israel, and it is much worse than the threat of Islamic State,” he said.

His comments come against the backdrop of reports reaching Jerusalem that the US was willing to accept an agreement with Iran that – according to Channel 2 – would allow it to retain some 5,000 centrifuges.

“There is concern in Jerusalem because we have not seen any evidence of the Iranians willing to show genuine flexibility, and we are concerned that in the framework of cosmetic concessions they are willing to make, they will retain the ability to become a nuclear threshold state,” one government official said.

Netanyahu, who served under Shamir as Israel’s ambassador to the UN and as deputy foreign minister, said that the seventh prime minister – who died in 2012 – was a realist who was not taken in by illusions and false hopes.

Regarding Jerusalem, Netanyahu said Israel would fight against those trying to redivide the capital. His comments came two days after Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas called on Palestinians to prevent Jews from going up to and “desecrating” the Temple Mount.

Netanyahu said Shamir stressed at every opportunity the need to preserve the unity of Jerusalem, “He stood by our natural right to build and be built in Jerusalem,” Netanyahu said. “Is it conceivable, he asked, that a Jew cannot establish his home in the capital of Israel. Do we have to be forbidden to build the capital of Israel, the inheritance of our forefathers? So we build and continue to build, for Jews and Arabs and members of other religions alike – for all its inhabitants.”

Netanyahu said that even though there are those who want to divide the city again, “to rebuild the walls in its heart,” Israel will not allow this and will fight against it “with an iron fist.”

The prime minister related to the uptick in violence in Jerusalem, saying that it was taking place almost exclusively in the eastern part of the city. “But that is part of the city, and it is our city,” he said. “We are not willing to tolerate the throwing of rocks in the capital of Israel, and will use all the means at our disposal to prevent it.”

No one knows if the Obama administration will manage in the next five weeks to strike what many in the White House consider the most important foreign policy deal of his presidency: an accord with Iran that would forestall its ability to make a nuclear weapon. But the White House has made one significant decision: If agreement is reached, President Obama will do everything in his power to avoid letting Congress vote on it.

“We wouldn’t seek congressional legislation in any comprehensive agreement for years,” one senior official said.

White House officials say Congress should not be surprised by this plan. They point to testimony earlier this year when top negotiators argued that the best way to assure that Iran complies with its obligations is a step-by-step suspension of sanctions — with the implicit understanding that the president could turn them back on as fast as he turned them off.

But many members of Congress see the plan as an effort by the administration to freeze them out, a view shared by some Israeli officials who see a congressional vote as the best way to constrain the kind of deal that Mr. Obama might strike.

The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Robert Menendez, the New Jersey Democrat, said over the weekend that, “If a potential deal does not substantially and effectively dismantle Iran’s illicit nuclear weapons program, I expect Congress will respond. An agreement cannot allow Iran to be a threshold nuclear state.” He has sponsored legislation to tighten sanctions if no agreement is reached by Nov. 24.

A leading Republican critic of the negotiations, Senator Mark S. Kirk of Illinois, added, “Congress will not permit the president to unilaterally unravel Iran sanctions that passed the Senate in a 99 to 0 vote,” a reference to the vote in 2010 that imposed what have become the toughest set of sanctions.

Many of the details of the negotiations remain cloaked. The lead negotiator, Wendy Sherman, the under secretary of state for political affairs and a leading candidate to become the State Department’s No. 2 official next month, struck a deal with congressional leaders that enables her to avoid public testimony when the negotiations are underway. Instead, she conducts classified briefings for the key congressional committees.

GOOGLE Glass and smartwatches seem positively tame by contrast with the latest wearable technology prototype - an interactive tattoo, implanted under the skin.
Asked to speculate on the future of wearable tech, a US design company drafted ‘Project Underskin’ – a digital tattoo that would be implanted in your hand and allow you to trade data with a handshake, monitor your vital signs or even unlock a door, according to Fast Company.
NewDealDesign , who drafted the concept, are known for their work on the popular Fitbit activity trackers. "When we started working on it, everyone was a little squeamish about implanting something. But there's a lot of cultural precinct," says Jaeha Yoo, Director of Experience Design. "Obviously tattoos, piercings - people are implanting birth control. This stuff is going on now. It’s not a huge step forward to implant something like Underskin."
The team envisage the device running off the body’s own electro-chemical energy, staying on permanently and allowing the wearer to unlock their door by touching the handle, or activating a credit card by holding it.

Pope Francis on Sunday, as he beatified Pope Paul VI who implemented the Second Vatican Council's vast changes, called on the church to adapt to "changing conditions of society."

His remarks took on added meaning as the bishops ended a two-week conference by rejecting landmark wording that would soften the church's stance toward homosexuality and divorce.

"God is not afraid of new things," Francis pointedly said during the beatification Mass

Whether the document issued Saturday by the bishops is viewed as a setback for the pope, the conference did show the church can discuss difficult topics — such as the role of gays, lesbians and divorced Catholics. It also exposed a wide rift between conservative and liberal-minded leaders.

An interim document issued last week by the bishops halfway through their synod included wording that welcomed the "gifts and qualities" of gay Catholics and called on pastors to "avoid any language or behavior" that could discriminate against divorced Catholics.

The end of this synod starts a year-long debate and discussion before a three-week synod a year from now. That meeting will produce a document to be used as pastoral guidelines. Saturday's document is just a starting point.

Michele Ippolito, a Vatican watcher with the Italian news site Fanpage, predicted Francis would spend the year making his case with bishops in hopes of building a consensus for a more tolerant view toward gays and divorced Catholics, as well as in other areas.

Evidence of the wide gap among church leaders is clearly visible. Conservative church groups have blasted Francis' outreach toward gays and the divorced, as well as the pope's critiques of capitalism and dialogues with other faiths. A group of cardinals and bishops, including U.S. Cardinal Raymond Burke — who has since been reassigned to a lower-profile role — was hostile toward the earlier language more accepting of gays and divorced Catholics.

The city of Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, is taking a step many opponents of same-sex marriage feared would come – forcing those with religious objections to perform same-sex marriages or risk facing prosecution for violating non-discrimination laws.

Donald and Evelyn Knapp, ordained ministers who oppose gay marriage, own the Hitching Post wedding chapel in Coeur d’Alene. Early in 2014, a federal judge in Idaho ruled that the same-sex marriage ban was unconstitutional, but the ruling was put on hold while the case was appealed. When the Supreme Court declined to hear the case, the ruling stood and went into effect.

The city of Coeur d’Alene has an ordinance that prohibits discrimination, including on the basis of sexual orientation, in public accommodations. It does have a religious exemption, but the Hitching Post is a for-profit company, not technically a religious organization, in spite of the Knapp’s deeply held personal beliefs.

“On Friday, a same-sex couple asked to be married by the Knapps, and the Knapps politely declined. The Knapps now face a 180-day jail term and $1,000 fine for each day they decline to celebrate the same-sex wedding.” Note that jail time and the fine is per day, not per offense, The Daily Signal reports.

Also on Friday, the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) filed a motion for a temporary restraining order and a federal lawsuiton behalf of the Knapps to stop the city from enforcing the fine and/or jail time.
Jeremy Tedesco, senior legal council at ADF, said, “The government should not force ordained. Many have denied that pastors would ever be forced to perform ceremonies that are completely at odds with their faith, but that’s what is happening here – and it’s happened this quickly.”
In May, Coeur d’Alene City Attorney Warren Wilson told KXLY, “If you turn away a gay couple, refuse to provide services for them, then in theory you violated our code and you’re looking at a potential misdemeanor citation.”

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