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Obama: Netanyahu Speech Offers “No Viable Alternative” on Iran

Mar 04, 2015

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made his case for stopping a nuclear deal with Iran. In a congressional address that saw him compare the Iranian leadership to the Islamic State and invoke the Nazi Holocaust, Netanyahu said an agreement would put Iran on a path to a nuclear weapon.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu: “This deal has two major concessions: one, leaving Iran with a vast nuclear program; and two, lifting the restrictions on that program in about a decade. That’s why this deal is so bad. It doesn’t block Iran’s path to the bomb; it paves Iran’s path to the bomb.”

Speaking at the White House, President Obama offered a rebuttal to Netanyahu by saying his previous dire warnings about Iran’s alleged nuclear capabilities have been wrong. Obama also said Netanyahu has offered no viable alternative to reaching an agreement.

President Obama: “How do we prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon? The path that we proposed, if successful, by far is the best way to do that. That’s demonstrable. And Prime Minister Netanyahu has not offered any kind of viable alternative that would achieve the same verifiable mechanism to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.”

Dozens of Democrats Boycott Netanyahu Speech

Mar 04, 2015

Although Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu received a bipartisan welcome, around 50 House and Senate Democrats boycotted his address, including Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. Rep. Lloyd Doggett of Texas and Rep. Jan Schakowsky of Illinois criticized Netanyahu’s comments.

Rep. Lloyd Doggett: “What do we know today that we did not know before he gave this speech? I think there’s really only one thing: He is a rejectionist. There is no agreement that this administration could achieve with Iran that would be good enough for him.”

Rep. Jan Schakowsky: “The House of Representatives is the most prestigious venue in the world, and to use it for political purposes was something that I did not want to be part of.”

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called the address “insulting,” adding: “I was near tears throughout the Prime Minister’s speech — saddened by the insult to the intelligence of the United States … and saddened by the condescension toward our knowledge of the threat posed by Iran and our broader commitment to preventing nuclear proliferation.”

Capitol Hill Protesters Denounce Netanyahu Speech

Mar 04, 2015

Demonstrators also gathered on Capitol Hill to both support and oppose the speech by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Brian Becker, national coordinator of the ANSWER Coalition, said Iran has the right to a peaceful nuclear power program.

Brian Becker: “Iran is within the International Atomic Energy Agency, the IAEA. They have the right to develop nuclear power for civilian use, as does every other country on the planet. The IAEA inspects Iran more than any other country in the world. Israel, on the other hand, refuses to sign the treaty with the International Atomic Energy Agency, because Israel, in fact, has nuclear weapons.”

Iran Rejects Obama Demand on 10-Year Freeze as Talks Continue

Mar 04, 2015

The congressional address by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu comes as the Iranian nuclear talks continue in Switzerland. Secretary of State John Kerry is convening with Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif as part of a bid to meet a March 31 deadline. Zarif has reportedly rejected President Obama’s recent public demand that Iran freeze all sensitive nuclear activities for 10 years, calling it “excessive and illogical.”

Heavy Iranian Role in Tikrit Offensive as Iraq Shuns U.S.

Mar 04, 2015

Iraq says it has recaptured several villages as part of its offensive to dislodge the self-proclaimed Islamic State from Tikrit. Iranian advisers and Iranian-backed Shiite militias are playing a key role in the campaign for the Sunni city, with reports of Iranian troops and an Iranian general in command. The Iranian involvement comes as Defense Secretary Ashton Carter has confirmed the United States was not asked to take part.

Defense Secretary Ashton Carter: “The Iraqi government in this case did not ask for our support in this particular operation, and I think that we need to be watchful, as we take — we, together with the Iraqi government, take back territory from ISIL, that we continue to conduct this campaign in a multi-sectarian way, because we’ve been down the road of sectarianism in Iraq.”

Carter was speaking before a Senate panel, where he also disclosed a Pentagon official is facing an internal inquiry for telling reporters about a U.S.-backed plan to recapture the Iraqi city of Mosul. Carter says the information was inaccurate and should never have been “blurted out to the press.”

Justice Dept.: Ferguson Police Discriminate Against African Americans

Mar 04, 2015

A Justice Department probe has concluded Ferguson police and city courts engaged in a “pattern and practice” of discrimination against African-American residents. A long-awaited report released today finds police disproportionately stopped, arrested and used force against blacks without reasonable suspicion. Despite comprising about 66 percent of the local population, African Americans accounted for 93 percent of arrests, 88 percent of incidents where force was used, 90 percent of citations and 85 percent of traffic stops. Investigators also found rampant racism, and cite at least two offensive emails. Ferguson may now enter into a “consent decree” and agree to police and court reform under the watch of federal monitors. The Ferguson probe comes as a White House task force on policing has called for a series of reforms, including increased transparency and independent probes of fatal shootings.

GOP Leadership Backs Down on Immigration in DHS Standoff

Mar 04, 2015

Congress has resolved a standoff over the Department of Homeland Security after a retreat by the Republican leadership. The agency nearly shut down last week as Republicans sought to link its budget to reversing President Obama’s executive actions on immigration reform. But on Tuesday, House Speaker John Boehner backed down and brought a “clean” spending bill to the House floor, paving the way for its passage with majority support from Democrats. The measure funds the DHS through the end of the year.

Supreme Court Hears Right-Wing Challenge to Obamacare

Mar 04, 2015

President Obama’s signature healthcare law is back before the U.S. Supreme Court today, in a case that could determine whether millions of low-income people lose their health insurance. Right-wing opponents of Obamacare are waging a technical argument against specific language in the law, which concerns tax subsidies to help people afford insurance. The law’s challengers claim the language does not allow people to receive subsidies if they get their insurance through a federal exchange instead of one established by the state. If the Supreme Court sides with the challengers, more than nine million people in the largely Republican states that have rejected state exchanges could lose their healthcare. The case marks the third challenge to Obamacare heard by the Supreme Court. In 2012, the court narrowly upheld the individual mandate at the law’s core. Last year, justices sided with religious corporations in the Hobby Lobby case, which weakened access to birth control.

Alabama Supreme Court Orders Halt to Same-Sex Marriage Licenses

Mar 04, 2015

Alabama’s top court has taken new action in a bid to block marriage equality. On Tuesday, the Alabama Supreme Court ordered a halt to marriage licenses for LGBT couples. The move follows a standoff last month that saw state Supreme Court Justice Roy Moore demand that judges and officials ignore a federal court ruling that struck down Alabama’s ban on same-sex marriage.

Clinton Avoids Public Record Requests Through Private Email Account During State Tenure

Mar 04, 2015

The New York Times reports presumed Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s exclusive use of a personal email account during her tenure at the State Department has allowed her to thwart public records requests for her communications. Clinton’s emails were not included in records provided to congressional investigators probing the 2012 attacks on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, because Clinton used only a private account. It was not until last month House investigators received about 300 of Clinton’s emails related to the attack, after Clinton’s advisers selected about 50,000 of her emails to provide to the State Department. Clinton did not have a government email address at all during her tenure as secretary of state, and her aides failed to preserve her emails on government servers in a possible violation of federal law. The Associated Press traced her email service to an Internet service registered to her family’s home in Chappaqua, New York. The AP writes: “The highly unusual practice of a Cabinet-level official physically running her own email would have given Clinton … impressive control over limiting access to her message archives.” News outlets, including the AP and Gawker, say they have been unable to obtain Clinton’s communications through public records requests to the State Department. Department spokesperson Marie Harf defended Clinton under questioning by reporters.

Marie Harf: “And as soon as we reached out to the former secretary, Secretary Clinton provided the emails covering the breadth of her time at the State Department on a wide variety of issues. It’s my understanding that those were provided in that way.”

Reporter: “So that’s everything? You know, we’re talking about the retention act. It doesn’t say, you know, 'vast majority.' It basically is about all of them.”

Marie Harf: “Right. We reached out and asked her to provide them. She provided a huge — you know, a large amount, that was 55,000.”

Reporter: “Right, just say it’s everything, if you think” —

Marie Harf: “Well, how can I? I mean, Brad, I’m not in her email.”

Reporter: “Did she say it was everything when she sent it back?”

Marie Harf: “When she responded, she said this was what she had, is my understanding, that was pertinent here.”

Attorney Renews Snowden Intent to Return to U.S.

Mar 04, 2015

An attorney for Edward Snowden has reasserted the National Security Agency whistleblower’s willingness to come home. Anatoly Kucherena says a team of international lawyers continues to work on terms that would see Snowden return to the United States. Kucherena says Snowden is prepared to end his asylum in Russia “on the condition he is given a guarantee of a legal and impartial trial.” To date, the Justice Department has only guaranteed he would not face the death penalty.

Petraeus Reaches Plea Deal in Leak Case, Likely Avoiding Prison

Mar 04, 2015

Talk of Edward Snowden’s return comes as a government leaker of a different sort has reached a plea deal. Retired four-star general and former CIA director David Petraeus will plead guilty to one count of unauthorized removal and retention of classified information. The FBI and federal prosecutors had recommended felony charges against Petraeus for providing classified information to a woman with whom he had an extramarital affair. Petraeus resigned in 2012 after admitting to cheating on his wife with his biographer, Paula Broadwell. Petraeus gave Broadwell access to his CIA email account and other sensitive material, including reportedly the names of undercover operatives in Afghanistan. Under his plea deal, Petraeus faces a maximum of one year in prison, though prosecutors will seek a suspended sentence that would spare him any time behind bars.

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