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October 29, 2009

President Obama Honors Fallen American War Heroes At Dover

President Obama Downed Soldiers 10 29 09

As he weighs whether or not to send more troops into the Afghan war zone, late last night President Barack Obama made a solemn trip to Dover Air Force Base to honor some of our fallen soldiers by being there personally to greet the 18 flag-draped caskets of young American soldiers killed in action this week.

When he arrived in Dover, Delaware our President travelled directly to a base chapel where he met privately with families of the fallen Americans. Former President George W. Bush visited the families of hundreds of fallen soldiers but did not attend any military funerals or go to Dover to receive the coffins.

The Dover base is about 100 miles from the White House and is the entry point for service personnel killed overseas.

September 30, 2009

Iran — What Should The World Do?

Middle East 9 09

World powers put pressure on Iran ahead of crucial nuclear talks scheduled for Thursday, amid growing concern about the covert build up of Tehran’s nuclear program.  Iran has insisted for years that it has a right to civilian nuclear energy for peaceful purposes and to make enriched fuel for power plants — although its first Russian built and long delayed nuclear plant is still not online. Iranian officials underscored that their nuclear “rights” (uranium enrichment which the UN Security Council wants suspended) were not negotiable.

But its announcement last week of the ongoing construction of another uranium enrichment plant, underground near the Shi’ite holy city of Qom, prompted stern warnings from western capitals led by Washington and concern from some Arab states.

Arab states from the Gulf have joined talks with the six Western nations preparing to negotiate with Iran over its nuclear program. The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) includes Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Envoys from the Arab states are said to have met at the United Nations headquarters in New York over the weekend with the five permanent powers (P5) in the UN Security Council plus Germany who want guarantees from Tehran on the civilian nature of its nuclear ambitions.  The ‘P5-plus-one’ group is set to meet with Iran on Thursday, October 1 in Geneva.

“It will be in the best interests of everybody that this situation stays under control,” said Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, the United Arab Emirates’ Minister of Foreign Affairs, following the disclosure of a secret Iranian nuclear site under development near the holy city of Qom. “The new facility is being looked at by the International Atomic Energy Agency, and it seems there will be positive co-operation with Iran for inspecting this site.”

Jeffrey Feltman, the US assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs, spoke of “ongoing consultation with our Gulf friends about what is our policy toward Iran and how we are going to address the October 1 dialogue with Iran.  There’s a profound concern on their part that we do not try anything that could be construed as trading their interests for our interests.”

Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has stated he has no objection to Gulf countries directly joining the talks.

Gulf States, fearing the encroachment of Iranian power throughout the region, have urged the country’s leadership to comply with international demands regarding the development of its nuclear program.

“Nuclear weapons is a tough issue, but it’s hard to know whether all this is just talk,” Dr. Ghanim A-Najjar, a political scientist at Kuwait University, told The Media Line. “Nuclear weapons are not a joke and I don’t think Iran will go that far. They don’t have the ability; the technology is not available to them.”

Dr. A-Najjar argued that recent efforts by Gulf States to explore nuclear power were in direct response to Iran’s nuclear development. “The Gulf States want to put pressure on Iran with threats of their own nuclear energy plans.”

“But I don’t see how Gulf States can be serious about nuclear development,” he added. “There’s a big step between saying we want nuclear power to actually having it and I don’t think the Gulf States are capable of this kind of development.”

Dr. Stephen Steinbeiser, Resident Director of the American Institute for Yemeni Studies, argued that there was more concern over Iran’s overall influence in the region than the potential of a nuclear armed Iran.

“People are definitely interested in Iran, if one day it’s proven that Iran has nuclear weapons the balance of power in the Middle East really squeezes Arabs out of the middle between Iran and Israel. That’s something that makes people pause and people are starting to question just how powerful Arab states really are.”

“The Israelis have a very palpable fear of Iran,” he said. “Yemenis don’t have that but there’s a concern about the influence that Iran is presumed to yield.”

“People here are less interested in these negotiations than in what is perceived to be Iranian interference in the northern rebellion,” he said, referring to an ongoing military conflict between Yemen’s central government and a Houthi-led rebellion in the country’s North. “You never hear it in the mainstream media but locally people feel that the northern rebels are receiving Iranian support and that this is not so much a war against rebels but a war against Iranian intrusion.”

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said this week that Moscow would like to see “substantial progress” on the nuclear program in Geneva, days after President Dmitry Medvedev signaled he might endorse sanctions against Iran.

This is a strong indication of a change in Russia’s position and that probably has something to do with the US attempts to reset the relationship with Russia. 

China has an important import/export relationship with Iran — will they put pressure on Iran now that Russia seems willing to do so? 

May 18, 2009

The White House: Have You Met Our ROTUS?

This is such a great and responsible position to have.  But I’m sorry Mr. President, our ROTUS’s salary should be much, much more that $36,000! 

Our ROTUS has to be someone who is personable, educated, VERY reliable, trustworthy, a good communicator and has to dress in a respectable manner since a major part of her responsibility is meeting and greeting heads of states and dignitaries.  I understand that this is a privilege and I know Ms. Page loves her job (and she might not be complaining) but $36,000 is not a reasonable salary for this position!

Darienne Page ROTUS 2   “Have you met ROTUS?”  This is a question President Obama has taken to asking some of his visitors to the White House. In a bureaucratic world awash in abbreviations and acronyms, this one in particular seems to amuse him.

Mr. Obama, of course, is POTUS (president of the United States). Michelle Obama is FLOTUS (first lady of the United States). And the title of ROTUS (receptionist of the United States) is worn by Darienne M. Page.

“This is the receptionist of the entire United States,” Mr. Obama said, introducing Ms. Page to Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.

“How long was your confirmation hearing?” Mr. Holder asked with a smile.

“You want to say, ‘Hello, POTUS,’ ” Ms. Page said later, recalling her interactions with Mr. Obama, who picked up the ROTUS nickname from young aides and now uses it nearly every time he sees her. “But then you say, ‘Hello, Mr. President.’ ”

Ms. Page presides over the beehive of activity that is the West Wing lobby of the White House. At 27, she is among the hundreds of young aides who help the new administration tick. But her vantage point offers a considerably closer view of this presidency than most of them.

She is on hand to greet nearly every official visitor who has an appointment with the president or his top advisers. She oversees the front of the house at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, serving coffee to former Prime Minister Tony Blair of Britain, making small talk with a delegation from Kazakhstan and trying to chew a mouthful of almonds quickly before saying hello to Tiger Woods as he stands at her desk.

Darienne Page ROTUS  “I tried not to be very star-struck,” Ms. Page said of the golfer’s recent visit. “I’m usually not, but I was caught completely off guard. All of the people that come in, I think, are humbled by the office, so they are all very nice.”

Last week alone, the list of visitors ranged from Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell, the Democratic and Republican leaders of the Senate, to the actors Owen Wilson and Ben Stiller, in town for the domestic premiere of their movie, “Night at the Museum: Battle at the Smithsonian,” at the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum.

Ms. Page tries to memorize the faces of the senators and representatives who come to the White House. But after a guest passes through the security gate on the North Lawn, she has approximately five minutes to do a Google search if they are unfamiliar, all so she can make small talk during their inevitable wait.

The White House, at least the portion of it where the president’s official business is conducted, is smaller than it looks on television. If the three sofas and half-dozen chairs in the West Wing lobby are filled, visitors must stand as if they were in a waiting room at a busy doctor’s office — although one with better artwork, like the 1861 oil painting “Cannonading on the Potomac” by Wordsworth Thompson that hangs above the receptionist’s desk.

“Hi, how can I help you?” Ms. Page said in greeting a visitor on a recent morning as men and women in business suits milled around. “Are you here for Nancy? You can have a seat.”

For her $36,000-a-year salary, Ms. Page schedules all the activity in the Roosevelt Room, just steps from the Oval Office, and in the Wardroom Room, which is outside the White House mess hall. Even with a dawn-to-dusk schedule, the meetings often run overtime, creating a logjam that she is left to contend with.

One sign of a busy day? An ever-growing pile of BlackBerrys and cell phones.

The Roosevelt Room is secure, so she must collect all personal electronic devices at the door. She uses yellow Post-it notes to write the last name of the owner on each device before placing it in a wicker basket on her desk, next to a vase of fresh flowers that is rotated at least every three days.

Her path to the White House began in a bar in downtown Chicago, where she and a group of friends from the University of Illinois stopped by for happy hour and dinner one night in fall 2007. A man in a “Veterans for Obama” shirt was sitting nearby, and they began talking about the campaign. Soon, she was a volunteer. A few months later, she was hired to work in the operations department to make travel arrangements and handle logistics for campaign field workers and senior strategists.

“You can tell a lot about a person’s temperament based on how they travel and what they’re willing to take and what they’re not willing to take,” Ms. Page said. “It helps dealing with them now.”

This is her first White House job, but Mr. Obama is the second president she has served. The first was George W. Bush, her commander in chief when she was an Army sergeant stationed in Iraq.

Ms. Page joined the military after finishing high school in Maryland, following a long line of others in her family. She worked as a paralegal in Baghdad, taking depositions in the Abu Ghraib prison. She still wears a metal bracelet on her right wrist inscribed with the name of Sgt. Maj. Cornell W. Gilmore, her commander, who was killed when enemy fire struck his helicopter in late 2003.

“He taught us to lead, but to lead with a smile and be calm under pressure,” she said. “A lot of lessons that I learned in the Army help me here. There is a lot that goes on that I have to do with a smile even if I really don’t want to.”

A task that requires particular diplomacy is overseeing the presidential boxes at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. A few days a week, she goes to pick up tickets and checks to be sure that the V.I.P. seats in all three theaters are in order and that the minibar is stocked with small bottles of Korbel champagne, white boxes of M&Ms with the presidential seal on them and a few cans of Bud Light.

The next challenge? “The Color Purple” is playing this summer, and requests far exceed the number of seats at Ms. Page’s disposal. As she walks down the center’s grand hallway, where coming performances are advertised, another worry pops into her mind.

“I’m dreading ‘Peter Pan,’ ” Ms. Page said, hurrying back across town to the White House. “Oh, Lord.”

This very interesting article was written by JEFF ZELENY of the New York Times

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/18/us/politics/18rotus.html?emc=eta1

May 14, 2009

No (Declassified) Memos For DICK Cheney

A few weeks ago former vice president Cheney challenged President Obama to declassify two memos that he said he believes shows that the Central Intelligence Agency had reversed acts of terrorism thanks to information collected from interrogations which included waterboarding.

Said Cheney, “The memos do exist. I have seen them. I had them in my files at one time. Now everything is part of the National Archives. I’m sure the agency (CIA) has copies of those materials.”

“If we’re going to have this debate, it ought to be a complete debate. Those memos ought to be out there for people to look at and journalists like yourself to evaluate in terms of what we were able to accomplish.”

Cheney has made it clear that part of his motivation is to defend against possible legal action against Bush officials who authorized or carried out the controversial interrogation policies.

Unfortunately for Dick Cheney he has to continue his ‘I must defend myself tour’ because those memos will not be released. 

A letter dated May 7, 2009, from the CIA’s Information and Privacy Coordinator, Delores M. Nelson, rejected Cheney’s request because the documents he has requested are involved in a Freedom of Information Act court battle.

“In researching the information in question, we have discovered that it is currently the subject of pending FOIA litigation (Bloche v. Department of Defense, Amnesty International v. Central Intelligence Agency). Therefore, the document is excluded from Mandatory Declassification Review,” Nelson wrote in the letter to the National Archives, the agency responsible for handling Cheney’s request.

Cheney spokeswoman Lucy Tutwiler has said, “Vice President Cheney is preparing his appeal to the decision.”

It’s unlikely this matter will dissuade Cheney from criticizing Obama for eliminating the program that he said amounted to torture, though some Republicans are worried about the suddenly high profile of the not so popular former VP.

Cheney has also said he is seeking the documents to help with his memoirs.

April 16, 2009

The Pirates of Somalia – Why They Came To Be…

somalia

Piracy in Somalia is a highly organized, lucrative, ransom-driven business. As we know pirates have hijacked hundreds of ships and are usually paid million-dollar ransoms to release each ship. These sensational payoffs have attracted men from all across Somalia and there are now thousands of pirates.  Being a pirate has become the best job to have in Somalia.

Piracy in Somalia started about 15 years ago because of a need to protect their tuna-rich waters from illegal commercial fishing by American, Asian and European fishermen. 

Somalia’s government imploded in 1991 – they failed economically and politically and left the country and people destitute with no resources and no services.  The country was and still is in chaos.  Children are starving and people are killing one another in the streets of Mogadishu, the capital, for a handful of grain.

Most people started to survive by fishing.  But because there was no government and a defunct navy the Somalian shorelines were not patrolled and international commercial fishermen stared to sneak in Somalia waters and pillage their fish. Because of this, a small group of Somali fishermen became guardians of the waters, vigilantes – they armed themselves and punished the lawbreakers personally since there was no government or legal authorities to do so.  They confronted illegal fishing boats and demanding that they pay taxes for fishing in their tuna rich waters.

Once the word spread that there was loot to be gained from the illegal fishing boats Somalians who were not fishermen joined in so they could make money.   More and more Somalians became vigilantes but then by the early 2000 it turned into piracy.

By the early 2000s most of the fishermen had traded in their nets for machine guns and were hijacking any vessel they could catch: sailboat, oil tanker, UN chartered food ships, you name the type of ship — it was hijacked.

As time passed the country’s infrastructure deteriorated more and more and the people became poorer and poorer.  The only people doing well were the pirates.  Young men who would have been in schools (that no longer existed) aspired to be pirates. 

Being a pirate is like joining the NBA or NASCAR or joining football’s Premier League in England.  Being a pirate was a way to get their family out of poverty, a way to make it. Piracy became Somalia’s great hope.

Over the past 15 years piracy in Somalia has evolved to another level and the town known as “New Boosaaso” has become one of the most dangerous towns in Somalia but it is also one of the most prosperous.

Boosaaso is where the high rolling pirates live.  These high rollers, shot callers are real pirates more akin to Black Beard. These are not your friendly baseball Pittsburg Pirates or the Pirates of the Caribbean portrayed by Johnny Depp.

Somalia now has a booming, not so underground pirate economy.  Palatial new houses are rising up next to tin-roofed shanties. Pirates are employing their neighbors and are now accepted and respected by their communities.  Piracy brings in millions and millions of dollars into Somalia and is probably the country’s chief source of income.

Pirates drive the biggest cars, run many of the town’s businesses and throw the best parties.  Young women aspire to date and marry pirates. 

Pirate teams share the loot and divide what they get amongst each other.  Twenty percent goes to the bosses, twenty percent is put aside for future missions (to cover essentials like guns and fuel) and thirty percent goes to the  gunmen on the ship and 30 percent goes to what’s left of the government officials to keep them quiet.

The pirates have no other opportunities in Somalia so they are willing to risk their lives for their only chance at wealth.  These pirates are sea savvy. They are fearless. They have the latest high-tech handheld GPS units and communicate with each other constantly. Tribal conflicts that have plagued Somalia for decades don’t exist between the pirates – they work together. They are united.  

One thing that we must give the pirates credit for is that they are not interested in the weapons on ships they seize.  They have no plans to sell them to Islamist insurgents who want to purchase them.   According to the pirates they will not offload the weapons from ships they commandeer – they just want the ransom money.

 

 

Even with warships from the United States, Russia and the European Union sailing into Somalia’s waters as part of a reinvigorated, worldwide effort to crush the pirates it won’t be easy to stop the pirates since they have everything to gain and nothing to lose.

April 7, 2009

Commander-In-Chief Obama Visits Baghdad

president-obama-arrives-baghdad-4-7-9 President Obama made a surprise visit to Baghdad on Tuesday.   

Obama US Iraq  He landed at a well fortified Baghdad International Airport and his plan to visit Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki and President Jalal Talabani changed because visibility problems disrupted his plans to fly by helicopter to meet them in person.  

president-obama-baghdad-camp-victory-pm-jalal-talibani  PM Maliki changed his schedule and went to meet Obama at Camp Victory and President Obama spoke with Talabani by phone.

president-obama-baghdad-arrives-camp-victory  The main reason for President Obama’s visit was to visit our brave heros in Iraq.  While at Camp Victory he presented ten medals of valor to our soldiers.

Obama US Iraq  He met with American military personnel including the Commander General Ray Odierno — who met him at the airport. President Obama also planned to talk with local leaders about making political progress in Iraq.  

“Our men and women who are in harm’s way, either in Iraq or Afghanistan, deserve our utmost respect and appreciation,” press secretary Gibbs said.

Before President Obama arrived in Baghdad a car bomb exploded in the Shiite district of Khadamiyah, killing nine people. There were also six bombings in Baghdad on Monday.

Iraq is still weighed down with problems. Earlier this month, Sunni paramilitary fighters who had been allied with the U.S. clashed with Iraqi and American security forces in Baghdad and in northern Iraq, Kurdish-Arab tensions have increased with U.S. soldiers often caught in the middle as peacekeepers.

In addition, the last American ambassador, Ryan Crocker, left his post mid-February and the appointment of his successor, Christopher Hill, has been held up in the Senate.

Just before President Obama left Istanbul for Baghdad, the president told a group of university students that, even though he opposed the war in Iraq when it began, he now has a responsibility to remove combat troops in a careful way.

president-obama-baghdad-camp-victory-greet  President Obama said, “I opposed the war in Iraq, I thought it was a bad idea.  Now that we’re there, I have a responsibility to make sure that as we bring troops out that we do so in a careful enough way that we don’t see a complete collapse into violence.”

president-obama-baghdad-camp-victory-commander-in-chief  Obama US Iraq

March 31, 2009

Schedule: President and Mrs. Obama Goes To Europe

Obama  Obama 

president-obama-dc-to-london-3-31-09-2

Tuesday:

The Obamas are scheduled to arrive in London approximately 7:30pm local time (3:30pm EST).  The UK is 4 hours ahead of EST.

Wednesday:

President and Mrs. Obama will breakfast with Prime Minister and Mrs. Brown at 10 Downing Street then President Obama will hold talks with Prime Minister Brown.  Meetings with Russian President Dmitriy Anatolyevich Medvedev and Chinese President Hu Jintao will follow and then Obama will meet with David Cameron, leader of the British Conservative Party and end the day with her Majesty the Queen of England.

Thursday:

The big day.  G20 summit. 

President Obama will also meet the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak and King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz of Saudi Arabia.

Friday:

Departs for Strasbourg, France (Near the German border)

President Obama will meet with French President Nicolas Sarkozy and hold a town-hall meeting.  He will then travel to Baden-Baden, Germany where he will visit with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and will then return to Strasbourg.

Saturday:

Attends NATO summit in Strasbourg.

Departs for Prague, Czech Republic

Sunday:

Attends EU-US summit.

Departs for Ankara, Turkey

Monday:

Departs Ankara for U.S of A

 

Obama  Obama  . 

Our POTUS and First Lady arrived in Britain at Stansted Airport in Essex, England at 7:51pm GMT (3:51pm EST), where they were met on the tarmac by Chancellor Alistair Darling and his wife Margaret and Britain’s Charge D’Affair’s Richard LeBaron and his wife Jean Foshee LeBaron. They then travelled on Marine One to the grounds of Winfield House, the U.S. Ambassador’s London residence. 

 

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