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Iranian Foreign Minister Lays Out Condition for Iranian Recognition of Israel

One day after senior Israeli government officials raised eyebrows at an international conference by remaining in the room when Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif took the stage to speak, Zarif told a German television interviewer that Tehran could restore diplomatic relations with Israel in the event of a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians. “Once the Palestinian problem is solved the conditions for an Iranian recognition of Israel will be possible,” Zarif said in the interview Monday.

The statement was not the first suggestion from a senior Iranian official that the Islamic Republic could find a way to reconcile itself with the existence of Israel – but it may the most hopefully timed. More than a decade ago, the reformist Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, who held office from 1997 to 2005, also moved to ratchet back the maximalist position often articulated by Iranian hardliners who called for erasing Israel from the map. Khatami framed the issue in less absolutist terms, saying that if the Palestinians negotiated a state of their own next to Israel, why should Iran be “more Palestinian than the Palestinians”?

But Khatami did not have what Zarif’s boss, President Hassan Rouhani, apparently enjoys, at least for now: the blessing of Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Nor was Iran in the early stages of a possible realignment of its relations with the United States – a tentative rapprochement that has emerged in recent months that both looms behind and guides negotiations on the future of Iran’s nuclear program.

The stakes are high in the nuclear talks; some experts warn Iran might be just months away from the ability to build a nuclear weapon. But the spirit of bonhomie surrounding the talks – there were many smiles and handshakes between negotiators at the talks in Geneva in late November and at the U.N. General Assembly two months earlier – rises from hopes that their success will be the bridge that ushers Iran back into what President Obama calls “the community of nations.” In Syria, where Obama has acknowledged Iran played a role in the removal of chemical weapons, a way may open for serious talks on ending the horrific civil war, in which Tehran is deeply involved on the side of President Bashar Assad. A more moderate Iran might also encourage the transition of Hizballah – the Shiite militia it created in Lebanon a generation ago to combat Israel – from a military organization with a formidable terrorist capability into an exclusively political entity. Washington also would like to see Iran ratchet down its support for the most militant Palestinian groups, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hamas, which rules the 1.7 million Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip.

Read more: Iran's Foreign Minister lays out condition for recognizing Israel | TIME.com http://world.time.com/2014/02/04/iranian-foreign-minister-lays-out-condition-for-iranian-recognition-of-israel/#ixzz2sQ847dJZ

Antonin Scalia: 'You Are Kidding Yourself If You Think' Internment Ruling Couldn't Happen Again

Source: Associated Press

HONOLULU (AP) — U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia told law students at the University of Hawaii on Monday that the nation's highest court was wrong to uphold the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, but he wouldn't be surprised if the court issued a similar ruling during a future conflict.

Scalia was responding to a question about the court's 1944 decision in Korematsu v. United States, which upheld the convictions of Gordon Hirabayashi and Fred Korematsu for violating an order to report to an internment camp.

"Well of course Korematsu was wrong. And I think we have repudiated in a later case. But you are kidding yourself if you think the same thing will not happen again," Scalia told students and faculty during a lunchtime Q-and-A session.

Scalia cited a Latin expression meaning, "In times of war, the laws fall silent."

"That's what was going on — the panic about the war and the invasion of the Pacific and whatnot. That's what happens. It was wrong, but I would not be surprised to see it happen again, in time of war. It's no justification, but it is the reality," he said.

Read more: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/02/03/scalia-internment-ruling_n_4720265.html

Former President Jimmy Carter And Rosalynn Remember Joan Mondale's Arts Advocacy

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- Former President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, are remembering Joan Mondale as an arts advocate and an effective campaigner.

The wife of former Vice President Walter Mondale died Monday at age 83. Walter Mondale was elected Jimmy Carter's No. 2 in 1976.

In a statement, the Carters said Joan Mondale was a devoted wife and a close partner with her husband throughout his career.

The former president and first lady also say Joan Mondale was exemplary in using public service to advance the arts and other issues important to her and many Americans.

The Carters say they remember how she was appreciated by the people of Japan for her love of their arts when her husband served as U.S. ambassador to Japan.


Israel Spars With Kerry on Boycotts Ahead of Peace Plan

Israeli ministers sparred with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry over peacemaking, suggesting he’s giving implicit support to a global campaign to sanction the Jewish state for its settlements.

A day after Kerry warned Israel of the economic damage sanctions could cause, Israeli Minister of Intelligence and Strategic Affairs Yuval Steinitz, a close ally of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, called the top U.S. diplomat’s remarks “offensive, unfair and intolerable.” Israel, he said, “can’t be expected to negotiate with a gun to its head.”

Kerry, speaking at the Munich Security Conference, had referred to an “increasing delegitimization campaign” that includes “talks of boycotts” as a risk for Israel if there’s no peace accord with Palestinians. He said the relative calm and prosperity that Israel now enjoys is “illusionary.” Kerry has consistently opposed sanctions against Israel and was only making a “statement of fact,” the State Department said today.

It’s the latest sign of tension between the longtime allies over Kerry’s efforts to prod Israel and the Palestinians toward a peace agreement. He has promoted the plan in several visits to the region in the year since he took the job, drawing criticism from members of Netanyahu’s cabinet who say the Jewish state is being pushed into abandoning core interests.

‘Proponent of Israel’

The boycott debate comes after pro-Palestinian activists scored several successes in a campaign to blacklist businesses operating in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, land occupied by Israel since 1967 and claimed by Palestinians for a future state. Targets include Israeli banks and companies such as SodaStream International Ltd. (SODA), a maker of home soft-drink machines.



Senators Call for Updated Protections to Combat Data Breaches

U.S. Senators said Congress should update laws governing the security of consumer data after recent breaches of payment systems at Target Corp. (TGT) and other retailers.

Senate Banking Committee members called for creation of a national data-breach notification system for retailers and greater data-protection powers for the Federal Trade Commission. At a hearing today, Senator Mark Kirk, an Illinois Republican, said he would introduce a bill to set a minimum 25-year sentence for violations of federal data-theft laws.

“This is a real problem that the FTC’s enforcement authority in this area is so limited,” Senator Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat, said of the agency’s authority to pursue data-breach cases. “Data-security problems aren’t going away on their own so Congress really needs to consider whether to strengthen the FTC’s hand.”

A Senate Banking subcommittee today held the first in a series of hearings on the security of consumer data. Tomorrow, Target’s executive vice president and chief financial officer, John Mulligan, will take questions from the Senate Judiciary Committee along with representatives of the Secret Service and other law enforcement agencies. A third hearing, in the House Commerce Committee, follows on Feb. 5.

At stake is about $40 billion of revenue earned by card issuers including JPMorgan Chase & Co. (JPM), as well as the profits of Target and other retailers affected by the breaches. More than $3 trillion in U.S. customer transactions take place each year through the point-of-sale systems infiltrated by the hackers, according to David Robertson, publisher of the Nilson Report, an industry newsletter based in Carpinteria, California.



Tea Party Candidate's Attack Against Spending Backfires

The Tea Party-backed candidate challenging House transportation leader Bill Shuster has spent months portraying the Pennsylvania Republican as a big spender behind some of Congress’s priciest infrastructure measures.

The strategy is backfiring. Donors are ignoring commercial real estate businessman Art Halvorson, who campaign finance reports show raised $8,700 in the three months ending Dec. 31 for the state’s May 20 primary contest. Shuster’s $558,000 intake included a check from the political action committee of Koch Industries Inc., owned by two brothers who have bankrolled the Tea Party movement.

Local Republican officials say Halvorson’s portrayal of highway and water-project measures as wasteful isn’t catching on in Pennsylvania’s most heavily Republican district.

“With the majority of Republicans here, it really doesn’t sell,” said Franklin County Republican Party chairman Dwight Weidman, a Shuster supporter. “People see these as must-do bills. Ultimately his constituents benefit from these projects and they really do see these things as legitimate functions of government.”

Analysts say the donation gap may show that some supporters of the small-government Tea Party movement who want to shrink federal spending have a different attitude about money that goes toward roads in their community.



GM Joins Ford Posting Sales Drops Blamed on Cold Weather

By Craig Trudell Feb 3, 2014 4:15 PM ET

General Motors Co. (GM) and Ford Motor Co. (F), the largest U.S. automakers, reported deeper declines in deliveries than analysts estimated as the coldest January in two decades kept some shoppers from dealerships.

Sales of cars and light trucks fell 12 percent for GM and 7.5 percent for Ford, according to company statements, and the shares dropped. Toyota Motor Corp. (7203) and Honda Motor Co. also reported deliveries that declined and trailed estimates. Chrysler Group LLC and Nissan Motor Co., which reported results exceeding analysts’ projections, fielded new sport-utility vehicles that drove much of their gains.

The industry trailed analysts’ estimates that had called for the eking out of a sales increase during the coldest January in the contiguous U.S. states since 1994, according to Commodity Weather Group LLC. GM, Ford and Toyota have forecast a fifth straight year of rising deliveries in 2014 after the industry totaled 15.6 million in 2013, its best annual result since 2007, according to researcher Autodata Corp.

“GM and Ford’s concentration of sales are in the areas that were badly hit by bad weather,” Jessica Caldwell, an analyst at auto researcher Edmunds.com, said by telephone. For Chrysler, “products like the Cherokee will continue to do well. They continue to up their product game.”



Chuck Hagel Stresses US Foreign Policy Shift From Military Might To Diplomacy

The US defence secretary, Chuck Hagel, on Saturday underscored the Obama administration's intention to shift the focus of its foreign policy away from military might toward diplomacy.

Speaking at the Munich security conference, Hagel said he and the secretary of state, John Kerry, "have both worked to restore balance to the relationship between American defence and diplomacy".

Hagel, in prepared remarks, stressed that the US was "moving off a 13-year war footing" as the war in Afghanistan winds down and as Washington seeks to avoid getting involved in additional military conflicts overseas.

Hagel's remarks echo those of President Barack Obama, who in his annual state of the union address this week said the US could not rely on its military power alone, promising to send US troops to fight overseas only when "truly necessary".

In recent years, the US has shown its eagerness to wind down the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, where the military dominated traditionally civilian-led activities such as development aid. US officials have also sought to avoid becoming involved in new on-the-ground military action in places like Syria and Libya.



Neocons Seek New Ultimatum on Syria

You have to hand it to the neocons; they never give up on their single-minded agenda of promoting wars against Israel's Muslim "enemies," even after the disastrous war in Iraq. The big difference now is that the neocon strategy is to endlessly insist that the U.S. government issue ultimatums of war unless a target country acquiesces to some demand.

The apparent neocon hope is that at some point the target won't or can't do something, thus requiring a U.S. military assault to maintain American "credibility." The Washington Post's neocon editors are the bellwether for this approach as they mix outraged propaganda against the targets with outrage over any perceived "failure" of the targets to comply -- and then over President Barack Obama's hesitancy to act.

A typical example was on Sunday's editorial page, egging President Obama to reissue a threatened military strike against Syria for allegedly dragging its heels on delivering chemical weapons to the United Nations for destruction.
As you may recall, the Syrian government got high marks for implementing the initial phase of its promise to destroy equipment that could be used to prepare chemical weapons for deployment. But it was well known that the next phase -- collecting the chemicals and taking them to a Mediterranean port and then to sea for destruction -- would be much trickery because some of the CW depots were in areas controlled or contested by Syrian rebels and the routes to the sea also were insecure.

Even the Post's editors acknowledge this reality, writing:

"No one should be surprised that the international effort is behind schedule. The original deadline to remove all so-called Priority One chemicals, the most dangerous, by Dec. 31, and all Priority Two chemicals by Feb. 5, was terribly ambitious for an operation that is complex even in peacetime and doubly difficult in the midst of a civil war. The chemicals must be transported to the coast, then by sea to a destruction facility on board a U.S. vessel, the MV Cape Ray, and neutralized safely."



New Saudi Counterterrorism Law Alarms Human Rights Activists; 'A Catastrophe'

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Saudi Arabia put into effect a sweeping new counterterrorism law Sunday that human rights activists say allows the kingdom to prosecute as a terrorist anyone who demands reform, exposes corruption or otherwise engages in dissent.

The law states that any act that "undermines" the state or society, including calls for regime change in Saudi Arabia, can be tried as an act of terrorism. It also grants security services broad powers to raid homes and track phone calls and Internet activity.

Human rights activists were alarmed by the law and said it is clearly aimed at keeping the kingdom's ruling Al Saud family firmly in control amid the demands for democratic reform that have grown louder since the Arab Spring protests that shook the region in 2011 and toppled longtime autocrats.

Saudi activist Abdulaziz al-Shubaily described the law as a "catastrophe." And Human Rights Watch researcher Adam Coogle warned: "The new law is draconian in spirit and letter, and there is every reason to fear that the authorities will easily and eagerly use it against peaceful dissidents."

The measure was approved by the Cabinet on Dec. 16 and ratified by King Abdullah. It was published in its entirety for the first time on Friday in the government's official gazette Um Al-Qura.


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