During a day of historic talks between Iran and the US and world powers, Iran agreed to allow inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency to view its newly disclosed uranium enrichment site near Qom within the next two months. Iran also agreed, in principle, to begin sending most of its low-enriched uranium to Russia for further enriching. Under the agreement, the uranium would then be sent to France to be processed into fuel and then return back to Iran, where it would be used for a medical research reactor in Tehran. US officials in Geneva said Tehran’s willingness to ship low-enriched uranium to Russia and France could be an important step. One US official told the Wall Street Journal, “This limits Iran’s ability to have the breakout ability needed to produce nuclear weapons.” Another round of talks will take place in October. President Obama, who did not attend the negotiations, called on Iran to live up to its agreements.
President Obama: “This is a constructive beginning, but hard work lies ahead. We’ve entered a phase of intensive international negotiations. And talk is no substitute for action. Pledges of cooperation must be fulfilled. We have made it clear that we will do our part to engage the Iranian government on the basis of mutual interest and mutual respect, but our patience is not unlimited.”
Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili said Iran would participate in another round of talks.
Saeed Jalili: “Today we had good discussions and talks. The Islamic Republic of Iran expressed views and points with regards to the international and global cooperation and global concerns. That was discussed today, and we reached an agreement so that these talks and negotiations will be continued in a positive view. Especially in the next months, we hope to reach a framework in order to continue the discussions in the best form.”
While many analysts praised Thursday’s talks with Iran, US lawmakers in the House of Representatives responded by passing legislation to impose new economic sanctions on Iran. The House bill bars any oil company that delivers crude oil to the US emergency petroleum stockpile from also selling gasoline to Iran.
In Indonesia, UN officials are estimating at least 1,100 people have died in an earthquake in the western city of Padang. Thousands of people remain missing and feared trapped in the wreckage of shattered buildings.
In the Philippines, tens of thousands of villagers have fled the likely path of another powerful typhoon bearing down on the country. The typhoon comes just days after a storm killed more than 420 people in the Philippines, Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos.
Republican Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina and three Republican congressmen are heading to Honduras to meet with the coup government in defiance of the Obama administration. Senator John Kerry, the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, initially blocked the trip from happening but relented late yesterday. Also traveling will be Republican Congressmen Aaron Schock of Illinois, Peter Roskam of Illinois and Doug Lamborn of Colorado. All four have been vocal supporters of the June coup that ousted the democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya. Zelaya secretly returned to Honduras last week and is currently inside the Brazilian embassy. On Thursday, a group of Brazilian lawmakers traveled to Honduras and condemned the coup government for attacking the embassy with toxic gas.
Brazilian lawmaker Ivan Valente: “The state of siege decree showed that the civil society who supported the coup decreased — businessmen, the Church, several movements, parties, Parliament — and so it was a measure which was not the best for them. That could help in looking for a peaceful solution in order to return to democracy and give legality to the constitutionally elected president and carry out a democratic electoral progress.”
Wired.com is reporting Democratic Senate leaders have bowed to FBI concerns that adding privacy protections to an expiring provision of the PATRIOT Act could jeopardize “ongoing” terror investigations. During a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing, chair Sen. Patrick Leahy and Sen. Dianne Feinstein introduced last-minute changes that would strip away some of the privacy protections Leahy had espoused just the week before. The changes deal with one of the most controversial provisions of the PATRIOT Act, Section 215, that allows a secret court, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Court, to authorize broad warrants for most any type of records, including those held by banks, libraries and doctors. Just last week, Leahy touted an amendment that would have required the secret warrants to be granted only in connection to terrorism cases. But under the Leahy-Feinstein amendment, the standard would allow secret court warrants to be issued if the information sought pertains to any “authorized investigation.”
New details have emerged about how the healthcare industry has been trying to sway the debate in Congress. A study by the Sunlight Foundation and the Center for Responsive Politics has uncovered never-before-seen webs of campaign contributions from outside lobbyists and their clients to key members of Congress. Between January 2007 and June 2009, Max Baucus, the chair of the powerful Senate Finance Committee, collected contributions from thirty-seven outside lobbyists representing the pharmaceutical industry’s chief trade association, PhRMA, as well as thirty-six lobbyists who listed drug maker Amgen as their client. In all, eleven major health and insurance firms had their contributions to Baucus boosted through extra donations from ten or more of their outside lobbyists. Some thirty-two members of Congress got money from ten or more PhRMA lobbyists over the last two-and-a-half years. Amgen’s lobbyists did the same for twenty-four members.
Democratic Congressman Alan Grayson of Florida is coming under criticism from Republicans after he said on the floor of the House that the Republicans’ healthcare plan involved wanting people to “die quickly.” Grayson has refused to apologize to Republicans.
Rep. Alan Grayson: “I would like to apologize to the dead, and here’s why. According to this study, 'Health Insurance and Mortality in US Adults,' which was published two weeks ago, 44,789 Americans die every year because they have no health insurance…Let’s remember that we should care about people even after they’re born. So I call upon the Democratic members of the House, I call upon the Republican members of the House, I call upon all of us, to do our jobs for the sake of America, for the sake of those dying people and their families. I apologize to the dead and their families that we haven’t voted sooner to end this holocaust in America.”
In business news, the nation’s largest cable television company, Comcast, is reportedly in talks with General Electric to buy just more than half of NBC Universal. Such a deal would give Comcast control of the NBC network, the Spanish-language Telemundo, cable channels including MSNBC, dozens of local television stations and the Universal film studio. The proposed deal would likely face scrutiny from regulators.
In other business news, General Motors has announced it will shut down its Saturn division by 2011. The move will eliminate an estimated 13,000 jobs.
Outgoing Bank of America CEO Ken Lewis is reportedly set to receive a retirement package worth $125 million. Lewis’s severance package includes $53 million in retirement benefits and $73 million in accumulated stock and other compensation. Under Lewis’s leadership, Bank of America received a $45 billion taxpayer bailout.
Meanwhile, the Census Bureau reports the nation’s poverty rate has rise to 13.2 percent, the highest level in eleven years. The number of people classified as poor has jumped to nearly 40 million.
A new study by the Justice Department has found that disabled people are 50 percent more likely to be victims of violent crime than non-disabled people. Michael Rand, a co-author of the study, said, “It’s clear that, overall, people with disabilities are more vulnerable to being a victim of violent crime than others.”
President Obama has signed an executive order to prohibit federal employees from sending text messages while driving. Driving while texting is considered one of the most dangerous forms of distracted driving. A recent study of truck drivers found the risk of a crash is twenty-three times greater while texting compared with non-distracted driving.
A student journalist in Turkey attempted to throw a shoe at International Monetary Fund director Dominique Strauss-Kahn as the finance official addressed a crowd at a university in Istanbul. The student missed but then attempted to rush the stage, screaming ”IMF get out!” The student and several other protesters were detained.
And a Burmese court has rejected an appeal by pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi against her extended house arrest. The Burmese military junta has faced intense international pressure to free Suu Kyi, especially from the United States, which on Wednesday held the highest-level talks with Burma in nearly a decade.
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