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Purveyor's Journal
Purveyor's Journal
October 30, 2013

NYT Editorial: Allies in Revolt


It is not every day that America finds itself facing open rebellion from its allies, yet that is what is happening with Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Israel. The Obama administration has denied there are serious problems. But there are clearly differences, some perhaps irreconcilable.

Here’s a quick summary: Saudi Arabia and Israel are deeply worried about the Obama administration’s decision to negotiate a nuclear deal with Iran — their mortal enemy. Saudi Arabia and Turkey are sore at President Obama’s refusal to become militarily involved in ousting President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, in particular his decision not to respond with military strikes to Mr. Assad’s use of chemical weapons. Mr. Obama instead chose a diplomatic deal under which Syria’s chemical weapons would be dismantled.

The Saudis are also unhappy that Mr. Obama withdrew support for Hosni Mubarak, the deposed Egyptian president, and then worked with Mohamed Morsi, a Muslim Brotherhood member who was elected to replace Mr. Mubarak but was later thrown out.

All three countries have resorted to threats and displays of pique to make their points. Saudi Arabia renounced a United Nations Security Council seat it had worked hard to win because, it said, the United States and the United Nations had failed to achieve a Mideast peace agreement or solve the Syria crisis, as if either objective could be easily delivered by America alone. Although it is hard to see how other countries like China and Russia would be better alternatives, Saudi officials have gone so far as to complain that they regard the United States as unreliable and would look elsewhere for their security.

Meanwhile, Turkey, a NATO member, has said it would buy a long-range missile defense system worth $3.4 billion from China because China’s bid was lower than bids from the United States and Europe. The decision may also, however, have reflected Turkey’s annoyance with Mr. Obama’s Syria policy. (It’s a dumb deal, too, and Turkish officials now seem to be reconsidering it; China’s system will be hard to integrate with NATO equipment, thus undermining alliance defenses and Turkey’s.)



October 30, 2013

For Obama, Risks And Rewards In Knowing Too Much

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Confronted with missteps in his own administration, President Barack Obama has frequently pleaded ignorance, suggesting he couldn't be at fault about things he did not know.

That was the case with the embarrassing healthcare.gov rollout. And, according to a U.S. official, Obama didn't know until recently that the U.S. had secretly monitored the German chancellor's phone for a decade.

It's an argument with benefits but also risks for the White House. Use it too often and the tactic emboldens critics who claim the president is incompetent, detached and not fully in control.

Obama's aides say they deliberate intensively about what to tell the president. They're eager to protect his time and concentration, but want to ensure he has information he needs to make decisions, respond to questions and promote his agenda.


October 30, 2013

Joe Biden Visits Domestic Violence Hotline He Helped Create

WESTLAKE HILLS, Texas -- WESTLAKE HILLS, Texas (AP) — His voice thick with emotion, Vice President Joe Biden on Wednesday again toured the National Domestic Violence Hotline he helped create, calling victims of such abuse "prisoners in plain sight."

Housed in an unmarked building in suburban Austin, the hotline was founded in 2006, two years after Congress approved the federal Violence Against Women Act, which Biden sponsored while still a senator from Delaware.

"I came primary to say thank you," Biden told a packed room of staff members and media. "There's nothing I've been involved with my entire career that makes me prouder, that I think is more sustaining, is more consequential than the work you all do."

Biden previously visited the hotline as vice president in 2009 and as a senator three years earlier.

Hotline President Katie Ray-Jones said more than 100 staff members handle about 22,000 calls a month — but that capacity issues meant they still were unable to get to almost 52,000 calls in 2012 alone.



October 30, 2013

'Bad Apple' Narrative Still Rotten 57 Years After Kafr Qasim Massacre

Though individual soldiers were convicted in the 1956 Kafr Qasim Massacre, Israel’s courts never even questioned why civilians were under military rule and curfews. Today, individual soldiers are still convicted of crimes but the occupation itself is never questioned and wrongdoing is dismissed as the work of ‘bad apples.’

By Leehee Rothschild

Fifty-seven years ago, on the afternoon of October 29, 1956, an Israeli Border Police unit shot to death 49, men, women and children from Kafr Qasim as they returned home from a day of work in the fields.

Kafr Qasim, located in central Israel’s Triangle area, was under military rule like most Palestinian villages and towns at the time. From 1949 until 1966 Palestinian citizens of Israel were governed under martial law that limited their movement, and subjected them to curfews, administrative detention and expulsions. The Israeli Border Police, a unit within the IDF at the time, was in charge of maintaining the military imposed law and order in Palestinian population centers.

The day of the massacre was the first day of the 1956 Suez War. Instructed to take all precautionary measures to keep the Jordanian border quiet, Border Police Central District commander Col. Issachar Shadmi decided to change the start time of the nightly curfew time to 5 p.m. The order was issued only in the early afternoon, which resulted in Palestinian farmers working their fields not hearing about the change of the curfew time. Maj. Shmual Malinki, who was in charge of one of the battalions enforcing the curfew on the ground, asked Shadmi what should be done with curfew breakers. Shadmi said, “Allah Yerachmu” (an Arabic blessing for the dead). Malanki passed this message to his officers, instructing them “to shot to kill” every person who violates the curfew. Nevertheless, out of eight officers, only one, Gabriel Dahan, carried out his order. Dahan’s platoon was stationed at the entrance to Kafr Qasim.

As the villagers made their way back from the fields, in trucks and wagons, they were stopped by the soldiers, whom they offered their identification papers. In response, the soldiers started shooting at them. In nine shooting incidents that day, the border policemen killed 19 men, six women, 17 boys, six girls and injured many more. The dead were buried in a mass grave, dug by Palestinians from the nearby village of Jaljulya who the army brought over for that purpose. The wounded were left unattended. They couldn’t be reached by their families, due to the 24-hour curfew; only after it was lifted were they transported to the hospital.


October 30, 2013

Settler Violence: Think Of It Like Burning Down A Jewish Business

Imagine a series of attacks on shops and businesses in your city. Every night, a gang of hooligans breaks windows, damages goods and sets fire to a different store.

Now imagine that this same gang only targets businesses owned by a specific group of people – say, a chain of local stores owned and operated by blacks or Jews. The attacks go on for years and only worsen with time. If the store owner happens to be there, he or she is beaten and left bleeding at the front door.

In the United States and Europe these kind of acts would be deemed “hate crimes.” In Israel, the targeting of, say, Jewish-owned businesses would be decried as an act of “terror” by politicians and the press. If the problem persists, it may even become an internationally-recognized issue. Petitions will be signed. Ambassadors will be called to explain. Communities will mobilize.

For a Palestinian farmer, the olive grove is his business.

The past several years have seen thousands of trees burned, cut down or damaged in dozens of incidents, including “price tag attacks” – a form of vandalism or property destruction, sometimes carried out in protest of a certain governmental decision that the perpetrators don’t like, and sometimes for no reason other than hate. Farmers have been shot at, beaten, and have had their cars burned. Some have suffered severe injuries, others have lost the little property they own. For almost everyone, the yearly olive harvest – taking place this time of year – has become a time of deep fear and anxiety.



October 30, 2013

Defense Fights Sequestration Eisenhower Couldn’t Predict

By Jonathan D. Salant and Terry Atlas - Oct 30, 2013

Defense industry lobbyists are bearing down on members of Congress in a bid to avert $52 billion in automatic spending cuts, part of a series of reductions that threaten to reshape military programs and contractors’ profits for years.

U.S. lawmakers have been barraged with phone calls, letters and visits in the biggest lobbying campaign by military contractors in recent history, as a special congressional committee begins meeting today in an effort to produce a budget accord replacing cuts approved in 2011, known as sequestration.

For the defense industry, this is a potentially transformational moment in its relationship with Congress, where defense spending long was accorded special status as a matter of national security and hometown jobs -- reinforced by campaign contributions. John McCain of Arizona, a leading Senate voice on defense, said military spending is no longer sacrosanct, even among fellow Republicans.

“It’s a new generation of conservatives that may not have the same concern for national security as previously,” McCain said yesterday. “A lot of them have never served, many of them are new in the Congress and many of them campaigned committed to cutting spending.”

The Aerospace Industries Association, a trade group that counts top contractors Lockheed Martin Corp. (LMT) and Raytheon Co. (RTN) as members, said it is waging its largest campaign in years against sequestration.



October 30, 2013

U.S. Chamber Takes on Alabama Tea Party in House Contest

By Toluse Olorunnipa - Oct 30, 2013

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce fired an opening salvo yesterday in the battle for control of the Republican Party, endorsing a self-described “pro-business” candidate in a special U.S. House race whose opponent is backed by Tea Party groups and is vowing to “be like Ted Cruz.”

The endorsement in the Alabama contest is the chamber’s first political move since the 16-day partial U.S. government shutdown and debt-ceiling battle, which exposed a rift between the Republican establishment wing and the smaller-government movement. Cruz, a Republican senator from Texas, was the chief proponent of the ill-fated plan to link defunding Obamacare to lifting the debt ceiling and passing a government spending bill.

In reaction to the shutdown, which Standard & Poor’s estimated cost the U.S. economy $24 billion, the chamber and other business groups said they will engage in elections -- including Republican primaries -- to help candidates aligned with their economic goals.

“Absolutely we want to send a message,” Rob Engstrom, the chamber’s national political director, said yesterday after the group endorsed Bradley Byrne, 58, in Alabama’s 1st Congressional District race. “We are sending a message here today, and we will send a message in every single one of these races. Some will be in primaries, some will be in general elections.”

Early Gauge

The winner of Alabama’s Nov. 5 primary runoff will compete to fill the seat vacated by Jo Bonner, a Republican who resigned in August to become vice chancellor of the University of Alabama system. The opening provides a rare opportunity this year for each side in the Republican conflict to measure the other and score a first victory.



October 30, 2013

Fed Keeps $85 Billion QE Pace Awaiting Signs Growth Picks Up

Source: Bloomberg

By Joshua Zumbrun and Jeff Kearns - Oct 30, 2013

The Federal Reserve decided to press on with $85 billion in monthly bond purchases, saying it needs to see more evidence that the economy will continue to improve.

“The recovery in the housing sector slowed somewhat in recent months,” the Federal Open Market Committee (FDTR) said today at the end of a two-day meeting in Washington. “Fiscal policy is restraining economic growth.”

Ben S. Bernanke is pushing unprecedented accommodation into the final months of his Fed chairmanship as he seeks to shield the four-year economic expansion from the impact of higher borrowing costs and this month’s partial U.S. government shutdown. The 16-day closing resulted in the furloughs of as many as 800,000 federal workers and delayed release of data the Fed says it needs to evaluate the economy.

“Taking into account the extent of federal fiscal retrenchment over the past year, the committee sees the improvement in economic activity and labor market conditions since it began its asset purchase program as consistent with growing underlying strength in the broader economy,” the committee said. The Fed repeated that it will “await more evidence that progress will be sustained before adjusting the pace of its purchases.”

Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-10-30/fed-keeps-85-billion-qe-pace-awaiting-signs-economy-picks-up.html

October 30, 2013

Growing European Backlash Over Spying Threatens Billions Of Dollars In US Trade

BRUSSELS - The backlash in Europe over U.S. spying is threatening an agreement that generates tens of billions of dollars in trans-Atlantic business every year — and negotiations on another pact worth many times more.

A growing number of European officials are calling for the suspension of the "Safe Harbor" data-sharing agreement, which is vital to more than 4,200 American companies doing business in Europe, including Apple, Google, Facebook and Amazon.

Revelations of the extent of U.S. spying on its European allies is also threatening to undermine one of President Barack Obama's top trans-Atlantic goals: a sweeping free-trade agreement that would add an estimated $138 billion (100 billion euros) a year to each economy's gross domestic product.

Top EU officials say the trust needed for the negotiations has been shattered.

"For ambitious and complex negotiations to succeed, there needs to be trust among the negotiating partners," EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding said Wednesday in a speech at Yale University.

At the very least, the Europeans are expected to demand that the U.S. significantly strengthen its privacy laws to give consumers much more control over how companies use their personal data — and extend those rights to European citizens, maybe even giving them the right to sue American companies in U.S. courts.



October 30, 2013

Concerns Raised About Security of Health Website

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Defending President Barack Obama's much-maligned health care overhaul in Congress, his top health official was confronted Wednesday with a government memo raising new security concerns about the trouble-prone website that consumers are using to enroll.

The document, obtained by The Associated Press, shows that administration officials at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services were concerned that a lack of testing posed a potentially "high" security risk for the HealthCare.gov website serving 36 states. It was granted a temporary security certificate so it could operate.

Security issues are a new concern for the troubled HealthCare.gov website. If they cannot be resolved, they could prove to be more serious than the long list of technical problems the administration is trying to address.

"You accepted a risk on behalf of every user...that put their personal financial information at risk," Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., told Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius during questioning before the House Energy and Commerce Committee. "Amazon would never do this. ProFlowers would never do this. Kayak would never do this. This is completely an unacceptable level of security."

Sebelius countered that the system is secure, even though the site has a temporary certificate, known in government parlance as an "authority to operate." Sebelius said a permanent certificate will only be issued once all security issues are addressed.



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