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OVER 100 MEMBERS OF CONGRESS CALL FOR DIPLOMACY WITH IRAN

Washington, D.C. — Days before talks on a permanent agreement between P5+1 countries and Iran are set to begin in Vienna, 104 Members of the US House of Representatives sent President Obama a bipartisan letter supporting continued diplomatic engagement with Iran.

Representative David Price (D-NC) said, “I believe that we must take advantage of the opportunity before us to pursue a peaceful, diplomatic resolution to Iran’s nuclear program, and that we must resist calls by some in Congress to prematurely enact a bill or resolution that risks inadvertently derailing or impeding our ongoing negotiations.”

“While difficult and uncertain, diplomacy represents our best hope to prevent nuclear weapons in Iran and ensure the safety of our families and others around the world. Congress should not undermine diplomacy by giving the Iranian hardliners an excuse to scuttle the negotiations. So many of our colleagues have expressed their determination for diplomacy, and so many more share the same view,” added Representative Lloyd Doggett (D-TX), a senior member of the Ways and Means Committee.

The text of the letter and the list of signers in alphabetical order are included below.

***
Dear Mr. President,

As Members of Congress—and as Americans—we are united in our unequivocal commitment to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. The proliferation of nuclear weapons in the Middle East would threaten the security of the United States and our allies in the region, particularly Israel.

The ongoing implementation of the Joint Plan of Action agreed to by Iran and the “P5+1” nations last November increases the possibility of a comprehensive and verifiable international agreement. We understand that there is no assurance of success and that, if talks break down or Iran reneges on pledges it made in the interim agreement, Congress may be compelled to act as it has in the past by enacting additional sanctions legislation. At present, however, we believe that Congress must give diplomacy a chance. A bill or resolution that risks fracturing our international coalition or, worse yet, undermining our credibility in future negotiations and jeopardizing hard-won progress toward a verifiable final agreement, must be avoided.

We remain wary of the Iranian regime. But we believe that robust diplomacy remains our best possible strategic option, and we commend you and your designees for the developments in Geneva. Should negotiations fail or falter, nothing precludes a change in strategy. But we must not imperil the possibility of a diplomatic success before we even have a chance to pursue it.
Sincerely,


1 CA Bass
2 OH Beatty
3 GA Bishop, Sanford
4 OR Blumenauer
5 Guam Bordallo
6 FL Brown
7 NC Butterfield, GK
8 CA Capps
9 MA Capuano
10 IN Carson
11 PA Cartwright
12 VI Christensen
13 NY Clarke, Yvette
14 MO Clay
15 MO Cleaver
16 SC Clyburn
17 TN Cohen
18 VA Connolly
19 MI Conyers
20 TN Cooper
21 CT Courtney
22 MD Cummings
23 IL Davis, Danny
24 OR DeFazio
25 CO DeGette
26 CT DeLauro
27 MI Dingell
28 TX Doggett
29 TN Duncan Jr (R)
30 MD Edwards
31 MN Ellison
32 IL Enyart
33 CA Eshoo
34 CA Farr
35 IL Foster
36 OH Fudge, Marcia
37 CA Garamendi
38 AZ Grijalva
39 IL Gutierrez
40 NY Hanna (R)
41 NJ Holt
42 CA Huffman
43 TX Jackson-Lee
44 TX Johnson, EB
45 GA Johnson, Hank
46 NC Jones, Walter (R)
47 OH Kaptur
48 MA Keating
49 IL Kelly, Robin
50 MI Kildee
51 NH Kuster
52 CT Larson
53 CA Lee, Barbara
54 GA Lewis
55 IA Loebsack
56 CA Lofgren
57 MA Lynch, Stephen
58 UT Matheson
59 KY Massie (R)
60 NY McCarthy
61 MN McCollum
62 WA McDermott
63 MA McGovern
64 CA McNerney, Jerry
65 NY Meeks
66 CA Miller, George
67 WI Moore
68 VA Moran, Jim
69 CA Negrete McLeod
70 MN Nolan
71 DC Norton
72 TX O'Rourke
73 AZ Pastor
74 NJ Payne
75 PR Pierluisi
76 ME Pingree
77 WI Pocan
78 CO Polis
79 NC Price, David
80 WV Rahall
81 NY Rangel
82 CA Roybal-Allard
83 MD Ruppersberger
84 IL Rush
85 OH Ryan, Tim
86 NMI Sablan
87 IL Schakowsky
88 VA Scott, Bobby
89 NH Shea-Porter
90 NY Slaughter
91 CA Speier
92 CA Takano
93 MI Thompson, Bennie
94 CA Thompson, Mike
95 MA Tierney
96 NY Tonko
97 MA Tsongas
98 MD Van Hollen
99 NY Velazquez
100 IN Visclosky
101 MN Walz
102 CA Waters
103 VT Welch
104 KY Yarmuth

It’s always darkest before the dawn: The Irrepressible and Irreplaceable Pete Seeger

By Dave Lindorff


I never really knew Pete Seeger, but he taught me how to play the banjo.

Climate Changes-- Washington Freezes (Part III of three part Climate Change series)

By Dave Lindorff


(This is Part III of a three-part series on climate change by Dave Lindorff that is running in WhoWhatWhy News)


The case for harm reduction: Philip Seymour Hoffman and Drug War Sanity

By John Grant


It was to be expected. A famous person’s death by heroin overdose becomes a catalyst for today’s equivalent of the lynch mob. Leading the pack, Bill O’Reilly immediately and aggressively called for heads to roll. Soon, four people were arrested in Manhattan for allegedly selling the drugs to the Academy Award winning actor.

Justice gets the shaft when it involves Mumia: Sen. Toomey and Philly DA Williams Slam Obama Rights Nominee for Seeking Justice

The latest from ThisCantBeHappening!:

 

Justice gets the shaft when it involves Mumia:

Sen. Toomey and Philly DA Williams Slam Obama Rights Nominee for Seeking Justice


By Dave Lindorff


It’s Not News, It’s Propaganda, Part 2

  “You said that the F.B.I. cleared Edward Snowden of acting with anyone else or as part of a spy ring.  Why are we even talking about this then?  How can Mike Rogers pretend the F.B.I. report doesn’t exist, go on TV, and accuse Snowden of being a spy for the Russian secret police?”

 

It’s Not News, It’s Propaganda, Part 1

  I was out walking my dog the other morning, and my neighbor Tom--known locally as “the gentle radical”--was out shoveling the snow from his walk.  He was puffing, and I asked him if he’d like to take a break and give me a turn at the shovel.

 

“Thanks for the offer, Ace,” he said with a smile, “but I need to do things like this to work off my frustration.  If I couldn’t shovel snow, rake leaves, and tend to my garden, I think the top of my head might periodically blow off.”

 

Super Bowl Friday Trash Dump: State Dept Releases KXL Final Environmental Review

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

The State Department has released the Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) for the proposed northern leg of the controversial and long-embattled TransCanada Keystone XL tar sands pipeline.

Image credit: Kris Krug.

In a familiar "Friday trash dump" — a move many expected the Obama administration to shun — John Kerry's State Department chose to "carefully stage-manage the report's release" on Super Bowl Friday when most Americans are switching focus to football instead of political scandals. **See bottom of this post for breaking analysis**

Anticipating the report’s release, insiders who had been briefed on the review told Bloomberg News the SEIS -- not a formal decision by the State Department on the permitting of the pipeline, but rather another step in the department’s information gathering -- “will probably disappoint environmental groups and opponents of the Keystone pipeline.”

And, indeed, the new report reads“Approval or denial of any one crude oil transport project, including the proposed Project, remains unlikely to significantly impact the rate of extraction in the oil sands, or the continued demand for heavy crude oil at refineries in the United States.”

This reiterates one of the earlier draft’s most heavily criticized conclusions that the pipeline is “unlikely to have a substantial impact on the rate of development in the oil sands,” and thus avoids a comprehensive assessment of those climate impacts.

In June 2013, President Obama said in a speech announcing his Climate Action Plan at Georgetown University that he would only approve the permit if it was proven that “this project does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution."  

The final environmental review is being released on the heels of damning revelations about the close ties between the Canadian pipeline builder, TransCanada and Environmental Resources Management (ERM). ERM was hired by the State Department to conduct the environmental review.

Insulting Workers, Coddling the Rich: Obama’s ‘Raise’ for Federal Workers is a Bad Joke

By Dave Lindorff


President Obama, five years late, decried the terrible income gap in the US, which has worsened during his years in the White House, and offered the puny “fix” of raising the minimum wage paid to employees working on federal projects from its current $7.25 to $10.10 per hour. This executive order, which could have been done when he took office in the depths of the Great Recession back in 2009 would be not immediate but would be phased in over the next three years.


To See Climate Change in Florida, Check Out Miami Beach’s Storm Sewers

By Dave Lindorff


Miami Beach – Len Berry was relaxing with colleagues on a hotel patio here one evening last October when one of them shouted, “Look! It’s happening!”  Peering over the railing, the group could see water pushing up onto the street below from storm sewer drains – something that thanks to sea level rise has been happening with increasing frequency in this low-lying resort city. Berry, director of Florida Atlantic University’s Center for Environmental Studies, says he and the others were in town to attend a conference on climate change when they got this first-hand view of the crisis.

State Dept's Keystone XL Contractor, ERM Group, Also OK'd Controversial Pebble Mine in Alaska

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

A DeSmogBlog investigation has revealed Environmental Resources Management Inc. (ERM Group) — the contractor performing the U.S. State Department's environmental review for the northern half of TransCanada's Keystone XL tar sands pipeline — gave the greenlight to Alaska's controversial Pebble Mine proposal in June 2013.

Same criminal spying but with a White House blessing: Obama in NSA Speech Says Nothing Will Change

By Alfredo Lopez


This past week, the Federal government threw a one-two punch that will effectively destroy the Internet as we know it. Demonstrating, once again, his talent for obfuscation and misdirection, President Obama made a speech about reforming the NSA and controlling surveillance that actually officially recognized, sanctioned and even expanded the NSA's domestic spying and cyber-warfare.

Short-term profits trump survival: Washington and the Oil Industry Know the Truth about Climate Change

By Dave Lindorff


Climate skeptics in Congress, and oil and coal industry lobbyists like the American Petroleum Institute and the American Coal Council may be preventing any significant action in the US on reducing this country’s emissions of carbon into the atmosphere, but at the Pentagon, and in the executive suites of the oil industry giants, there is no doubt about the reality of climate change.


$1.1 Trillion Spending Bill Overturns Pentagon Cuts

From Jason Ditz at Antiwar.com

Congressional negotiators have unveiled a $1.1 trillion spending bill tonight that officials say will avoid a government shutdown, and will also increase Pentagon spending above the levels a previous sequestration deal called for.

As usual, the Pentagon spending is still being spun as a “cut,” since it was lower than the Pentagon’s own demand for an increase, but it is actually $20 billion above the sequestration deal, and includes $90 billion in war funding, more than initially sought.

The nearly 1,600 pages of the bill include all sorts of putative compromises, and a lot of major disappointments, including an official authorization from Congress for President Obama to continue breaking the law by funding the Egyptian military junta.

President Obama has indicated he intends to continue sending $1.5 billion to the Egyptian military annually despite the June coup d’etat. US law explicitly bans military funding after coups, but the administration has insisted they just are going to pretend they didn’t hear that.

Addicted to the fruit of a poisoned tree: Thanks to George Bush, Talks with Iran Make Sense

By John Grant


US military history from Vietnam to Iraq and Afghanistan is too often a combination of destructive stumbling around followed by an effort to sustain and project forward the notion of US power and exceptionalism. To forge another narrative is very difficult.

Days Before Casselton Oil Train Explosion, Obama Signed Bill Hastening Fracking Permits on ND Public Lands

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

On December 20, both chambers of the U.S. Congress passed a little-noticed bill to expedite permitting for hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") on public lands in the Bakken Shale basin, located predominantly in North Dakota. And on December 26, President Obama signed the bill into law. 

Foreign Aid, the U.S. and Palestine

Foreign Aid, the U.S. and Palestine

Let us, for a moment, take a look at a part of the world where suffering is rampant. Here are some of the conditions the residents there experience:

-        Very limited potable water.

-        Electricity for six hours a day, at a maximum.

-        Children have to walk through areas destroyed by terrorist bombings to get to school. Many schools have been destroyed.

-        Unemployment is in the double-digits. It rose to 32.5% over the second quarter.

-        Food is lacking; few people have sufficient to eat, due to import restrictions.

Optimistic Thought for the New Year: The Looming Battle for Real Social Security Can Spawn a New Progressive Movement

By Dave Lindorff


I don’t care if you are 75 and retired, 61 and just about to reach the age when you become eligible for Social Security, 50 and looking out 15 or 20 years to the time when you’ll need to retire, or 25 with grandparents collecting retirement benefits and wondering what will be there when you get old. Whatever your age, don’t let anyone tell you Social Security is in trouble, or that it “won’t be around” when you need it.


Senator Kirk's War Prayer

Senator Kirk was praying to Senators Schumer and Menendez, or rather to his god but for their benefit. He was praying in his office where the three were gathered late at night. He was praying for a chance to drop bombs on Iran.

An aged stranger entered the office without a sound, despite the closed door.  He moved with slow and noiseless step toward Senator Kirk's desk, his eyes fixed upon the senator, his long body clothed in a robe that reached to his feet, his head bare, his white hair descending in a frothy cataract to his shoulders, his seamy face unnaturally pale, pale even to ghastliness. With all eyes following him and wondering, he made his silent way; without pausing, he reached the desk and stood there waiting. With shut lids the senator, unconscious of his presence, continued with his moving prayer, and at last finished it with the words, uttered in fervent appeal, "Bless our arms, grant us the victory, O Lord our God, Father and Protector of our land and flag!"

The stranger touched his arm, motioned him to step aside -- which the startled senator did -- and took his place in the senator's leather chair. During some moments he surveyed the spellbound audience of three bewildered senators with solemn eyes, in which burned an uncanny light; then in a deep voice he said:

"I come from the Throne -- bearing a message from Almighty God!" The words smote the room with a shock; if the stranger perceived it he gave no attention. "He has heard the prayer of His servant your shepherd, and will grant it if such shall be your desire after I, His messenger, shall have explained to you its import -- that is to say, its full import. For it is like unto many of the prayers of men, in that it asks for more than he who utters it is aware of -- except he pause and think.

"God's servant and yours has prayed his prayer. Has he paused and taken thought? Is it one prayer? No, it is two -- one uttered, the other not. Both have reached the ear of Him Who heareth all supplications, the spoken and the unspoken. Ponder this -- keep it in mind. If you would beseech a blessing upon yourself, beware! lest without intent you invoke a curse upon a neighbor at the same time. If you pray for the blessing of rain upon your crop which needs it, by that act you are possibly praying for a curse upon some neighbor's crop which may not need rain and can be injured by it.

"You have heard your servant's prayer -- the uttered part of it. I am commissioned of God to put into words the other part of it -- that part which the senator -- and also you in your hearts -- fervently prayed silently. And ignorantly and unthinkingly? God grant that it was so! You heard these words: 'Grant us the victory, O Lord our God!' That is sufficient. The whole of the uttered prayer is compact into those pregnant words. Elaborations were not necessary. When you have prayed for victory you have prayed for many unmentioned results which follow victory-- must follow it, cannot help but follow it. Upon the listening spirit of God fell also the unspoken part of the prayer. He commandeth me to put it into words. Listen!

"O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth to battle -- be Thou near them! With them -- in spirit -- we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the Iranians. O Lord our God, help us to tear their men and women and children and infants to bloody shreds with our missiles; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with little children to wander unfriended the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst, sports of the sun flames of summer and the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of the grave and denied it -- for our sakes who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with their tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet! We ask it, in the spirit of love, of Him Who is the Source of Love, and Who is the ever-faithful refuge and friend of all that are sore beset and seek His aid with humble and contrite hearts. Amen.

(After a pause.) "Ye have prayed it; if ye still desire it, speak! The messenger of the Most High waits!"

It was believed afterward that the man was a lunatic, because there was no sense in what he said.

Apologies to Mark Twain.

Dollarocracy: U.S. Congressmen Refuse to Address Keystone XL Southern Half Spill Concerns

Cross-Posted from DeSmogBlog

What's the U.S. congressional response to the safety issues with the 485-mile southern half of TransCanada's Keystone XL pipeline raised by Public Citizen's Texas office? Mostly what Simon & Garfunkel called "The Sound of Silence" in their famous song.

Corporate media keeps US citizens in the dark: Pakistan Outs Three US CIA Station Chiefs in Three Years

By Dave Lindorff


For the third time in three years, a CIA station chief has been outed in Pakistan, a country where the CIA is running one of its largest covert operations. It’s a remarkable record of failure by the CIA, since each outing, which has required a replacement of the station chief position, causes a breakdown in the agency’s network of contacts in the country.


Kirk-Menendez-Schumer Wag the Dog Act of 2014

by Jim Lobe Copies of the bill that Sens. Kirk, Menendez, and Schumer hope to introduce in the Senate this week — presumably to be pressed for passage after the Christmas/New Year recess — are circulating today around Washington, and, as predicted, it is clearly designed to sabotage last month’s first-phase deal (the Joint Plan of Action) on Tehran’s nuclear program, as well as prospects for a final agreement. The bill is called the Iran Nuclear Weapon Free Act of 2013, although I would prefer to call it the Wag the Dog Act of 2014, given the implicit discretion it gives to Bibi Netanyahu to commit the U.S. to war with Iran. Its key provisions, as described by the sponsors, are laid out at the end of this post.

READ THE REST.

It’s been a ‘Catch-22’: My Experience with Obama(doesn’t)care

By Alfredo Lopez

The web designers will tell you: when it comes to websites, good design can't mask bad ideas.

I've been thinking about that for the last six weeks as I've confronted, with waning trust morphing into enraged frustration, the remarkably complicated corridors of The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (popularly known as "Obamacare"). The problems in the roll-out of this ersatz reform are generally known and, depending on who's talking, have led to irritated calls for fixes or have been cited as proof that anything the government does that is socially responsible is a communist-inspired train wreck.

Two cheers for Pope Francis: About Time American Idiocy and Paranoia over Marxism Got Called Out

By Dave Lindorff


So Pope Francis, the new pope who has conservative American Catholics, particularly those in politics and the media, freaked out because he is criticizing capitalist greed, knows Marxists who are "good people,"  and isn't upset to be labeled one of them, even though he says "Marxist ideology is wrong.".

Murray-Ryan Budget Dumps 51.4% into Military -- Happy Human Rights Day!

Excerpted from the press release pasted below:

"In fiscal year 2014, defense discretionary spending would be set at $520.5 billion, and non-defense discretionary spending would be set at $491.8 billion."

This is an unbelievable outrage for Congress to churn out on International Human Rights Day while numerous members of Congress were off in South Africa claiming to support the use of nonviolence to effect change in the world.

How will the U.S. public react once the media lays bare this incredible proposal? Here's enough money to work wonders in green energy, infrastructure, actual humanitarian aid, education, and many other areas all combined.  This is an amount of money very difficult to comprehend, and it's being dumped into such unpopular projects as the ongoing war on Afghanistan.

One has to wonder how our Nobel Peace Prize laureate, "ender" of the war, President Barack Obama might respond should Congress send him such a budget.  I'm sure he'll be hard-pressed not to assume he's dreaming when he reads these numbers.  I'm sure ...

Oh, wait.  What?

Obama wanted 57% to go to militarism?


 

 

I see. I get it. Don't you get it? This is 18-dimensional chess. By proposing an outrageous budget, Obama motivated Congress to scale back to something slightly less outrageous. He never could have talked them into that. This took strategic planning and plotting.  Probably some people actually fell for it, actually thought Obama wanted funding for the wars he continues and launches. Pretty funny.

CONTACT:
Murray Press Office:(202) 224-5398
Ryan Press Office: (202) 226-6100

Murray and Ryan Announce Bipartisan Budget-Conference Agreement

Two-year budget agreement would avoid government shutdown in January, provide certainty to businesses and families, and return budget process to regular order

Bipartisan agreement would provide sequester relief for defense and domestic priorities—fully offset by concrete savings and reforms—and further reduce the deficit

Short-term agreement breaks through partisan gridlock and can serve as foundation for continued bipartisan work

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Today, Senate Budget Committee chairman Patty Murray (D-WA) and House Budget Committee chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) announced that they have reached a two-year budget agreement in advance of the budget conference’s December 13th deadline.

“I’m proud of this agreement,” said Chairman Ryan. “It reduces the deficit—without raising taxes. And it cuts spending in a smarter way. It’s a firm step in the right direction, and I ask all my colleagues in the House to support it.”

“This agreement breaks through the recent dysfunction to prevent another government shutdown and roll back sequestration’s cuts to defense and domestic investments in a balanced way,” said Chairman Murray. “It’s a good step in the right direction that can hopefully rebuild some trust and serve as a foundation for continued bipartisan work.”

The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2013 would set overall discretionary spending for the current fiscal year at $1.012 trillion—about halfway between the Senate budget level of $1.058 trillion and the House budget level of $967 billion. The agreement would provide $63 billion in sequester relief over two years, split evenly between defense and non-defense programs. In fiscal year 2014, defense discretionary spending would be set at $520.5 billion, and non-defense discretionary spending would be set at $491.8 billion.

The sequester relief is fully offset by savings elsewhere in the budget. The agreement includes dozens of specific deficit-reduction provisions, with mandatory savings and non-tax revenue totaling approximately $85 billion. The agreement would reduce the deficit by between $20 and $23 billion.

The House of Representatives is expected to take up the Bipartisan Budget Act first, followed by the Senate. If this bill is signed into law, the appropriations committees will then be able to work on spending bills at an agreed-upon level in advance of the January 15th deadline.


Social Justice Groups Demand Congress Slash Military Budget, Spend Money on People, Peace, Planet

Glen Davis, Jill Stein (back row), Kymone Freeman, Cheri Honkala, Leslie Ortiz (front row)

Glen Davis, Jill Stein (back row), Kymone Freeman, Cheri Honkala, Leslie Ortiz (front row)

In spite of heavy, wet snow falling on Capitol Hill, a coalition of peace, anti-hunger, anti-poverty, environmental and community groups came together to voice its objections to what it calls “runaway, dangerous military spending.”

In a press conference in the Cannon Office Building, speakers called on the Congressional Budgetary Committee to pass a budget resolution that re-directs military spending to domestic needs that serve “people, peace and the planet.” They then presented their proposed budget and supporting petitions to staffers of  Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), Co-Chair of the Budgetary Committee.

After a stand-off on the budget resulting in a government shutdown in October, the Committee has until December 13 to re-negotiate some of the automatic sequestration cuts coming up next year. As it is, the Pentagon budget is due for about a 10% reduction, or $52 billion. Jill Stein of the Green Party’s Shadow Cabinet said that’s not nearly enough.

“We cannot both feed the hungry and feed our children, feed our elders, feed us and fill this absolutely bottomless pit of the military machine,” she said.

In its proposed “Peace-People-Planet” budget, the coalition outlines ten ways to slash military spending by 25 to 50%, including changing U.S. military policy (“stop policing the world”), ceasing to buy unnecessary weapons systems, and auditing wasteful practices at the Pentagon.

Taxpayer dollars should be used instead to fund social programs, job initiatives and actions to combat climate change, press conference speakers said.

READ THE REST.

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