This Week in the News

Bad Deal

The Washington Post wrote on July 14:

“Israeli leaders across the political spectrum condemned in stark apocalyptic language the Iranian nuclear pact announced by the United States and world powers Tuesday, calling it a historic mistake that frees Iran to sponsor global terror while assembling the information and materials to build a nuclear weapon. ‘Iran is going to receive a sure path to nuclear weapons,’ said Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Tuesday… With the lifting of economic sanctions, Netanyahu warned, ‘ Iran will get a jackpot, a cash bonanza of hundreds of billions of dollars, which will enable it to continue to pursue its aggression and terror.’

“Netanyahu’s hardline coalition partner, education minister Naftali Bennett said, ‘Today a terrorist nuclear superpower is born, and it will go down as one of the darkest days in world history.’…

“Many Israeli leaders view a nuclear Iran as an existential threat to their state. Israeli social media accounts were filled with images of former British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain, who pushed a policy of appeasement toward Adolf Hitler and the Nazis on the eve of World War II… ‘Israel will defend itself,’ Bennett warned, vowing that military action is still an option for the Jewish State, which feels itself in the crosshairs from a belligerent enemy, where just last week protesters in Tehran were chanting ‘Death to Israel!’…

“Israeli politicians and pro-Israel supporters in the United States will now likely press Congress to derail the deal, a difficult prospect that could eventually require trying to override a presidential veto, which would require deep Democratic support..

“Netanyahu and his government charge that Obama especially, is naive about Iranian intentions and has placed a foolish bet on a deceptive and devious partner…”

Biggest Foreign Policy Gamble

Reuters reported on July 14:

“The sealing of a nuclear pact with Iran marks the biggest foreign policy gamble of Barack Obama’s presidency – a legacy-defining achievement that could yet backfire if Tehran exploits any loopholes or escalates tensions in the Middle East. No other foreign policy challenge bears Obama’s personal stamp more than the final nuclear accord reached with Iran on Tuesday, and none poses a more critical test of his doctrine of talking to America’s enemies to avoid confronting them…

“But if the critics are proven right, Obama could go down in history as the president who only bought time before allowing Tehran to go nuclear. That could spark a regional arms race. Obama, who controversially won the Nobel Peace prize barely nine months into his first term, must overcome accusations from hawkish lawmakers that he abandoned many of his original ‘red lines’ and compromised on others.

“Initial U.S. demands dropped along the way included fuller dismantling of Iran’s nuclear architecture and rollback of its ballistic missile program. As details emerged on Tuesday, opponents complained that Obama also made concessions on inspection of military sites – although Iran too appeared to have given ground on the issue… He must now convince a skeptical Congress not to sabotage the agreement while reassuring allies such as Israel and Saudi Arabia who fear that, once freed from economically crippling sanctions, Iran will be empowered to expand regional influence…

“The most immediate challenge for Obama will be to clear the obstacles in the Republican-controlled Congress, which will have 60 days to review the Iran agreement… If Congress votes down the accord, Obama would veto the ‘disapproval’ legislation and then likely have enough votes from fellow Democrats to make it stick. But resorting to such a move would underscore the deal’s unsteady footing in Washington…

“Critics say Obama’s drive to limit U.S. military engagement in the Middle East, most notably a failure to enforce his ‘red line’ on chemical weapons use in Syria in 2013, was seen by Iran’s nuclear negotiators as a sign of weakness. By contrast, President Richard Nixon’s unquestioned anti-communist credentials helped immunize him from criticism at home and shored up trust in his commitment to act from strength when he made a historic opening to China in the early 1970s.

“Many fear that even if Iran does not covertly work toward a bomb it would remain a nuclear-weapons threshold state able to race ahead once restrictions on its uranium enrichment activities begin expiring in a decade. That could leave a future U.S. administration with the decision whether to go to war to stop it.”

President Obama Should Think Again…

 The Telegraph wrote on July 14:

“You only had to look at the beaming smiles on the faces of the Iranian negotiating team to see who had emerged as the undisputed winners… Iranians have long enjoyed a reputation for being wily negotiators, but the outcome… will have surpassed even their wildest expectations. Tehran entered these talks, let us not forget, out of sheer desperation to escape the crippling effects of the economic sanctions imposed by the West…

 “The main reason we have ended up with this apology for a deal is that, rather than maintain the economic pressure on Iran until it guaranteed proper cooperation, President Barack Obama indicated he was more interested in securing his foreign policy legacy by signing a historic accord, irrespective of the concessions this would require.

 “Mr Obama might have convinced himself that the deal cuts off all of Iran’s ‘pathways to nuclear weapons,’ but that is certainly not how the deal will be viewed by those who have more intimate knowledge of the Iranian regime’s devious tactics, such as the Saudis and the Gulf states….

 “If Mr Obama really believes his ‘historic’ deal is going to bring peace to the region, then he needs to think again.”

Very Little That America Can Do Now

The Associated Press reported on July 14:

“Although President Barack Obama doesn’t need Congressional approval for the deal, lawmakers will likely try to derail it by passing new sanctions or preventing Obama from lifting existing sanctions – the key incentive for Iran to comply with the deal. Under an agreement that Obama struck with lawmakers earlier in the year, Congress has 60 days to review the agreement before he can start easing sanctions.

“Obama on Tuesday threatened to veto any resolutions from Congress seeking to undermine the deal, meaning opponents would have to muster a two-thirds majority in Congress to override the veto. That would require dozens of Democrats to vote against the president, which appears unlikely, and even if opponents are successful, Obama could use his presidential powers to offer substantial sanctions relief on his own.”

 The Deal with Greece

 Deutsche Welle reported on July 14:

“Eurozone leaders have reached a deal to provide Greece with a third financial bailout… European Council President Donald Tusk… along with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, and Eurogroup President Jeroen Dijsselbloem appeared at a press conference to unveil the agreement.

“Tusk, trying to lighten the atmosphere after what by all accounts were at times heated discussions, described the bailout deal as an ‘agreekment’ to save the financially stricken eurozone country from bankruptcy. The European Council president pledged that the deal would allow Athens to ‘get back on track.’ ‘Grexit has gone,’ Juncker said, referring to the scenario of Greece being forced out of the eurozone, if a deal had not been reached…

“In her remarks, German Chancellor Angela Merkel stressed that despite the fact that the agreement provides for some debt relief for Athens, there would be no fresh debt ‘haircut’ for Greece. She also noted that ‘trust needs to be rebuilt’ between Greece and its creditors, the European Commission, the European Central Bank, and the International Monetary Fund. Achieving this and implementing the terms of the bailout would not be easy, she warned. ‘The road will be long, and judging by the negotiations tonight, difficult,’ Merkel said…

“The agreement announced on Monday will require Tsipras to push… spending cuts, tax increases and pension reforms. These are just the sort of reforms that Tsipras and his left-wing Syriza party vowed to stop in their successful January election campaign. Shortly after the deal was announced, his labor minister warned that it wasn’t clear whether there was a parliamentary majority prepared to endorse it. The joint statement released by the eurozone leaders about the deal said that none of the other countries would move to approve the deal until the measures have been passed by Greece…”

Subsequently, the Greek parliament approved the deal [see articles below]

Germany Flexes Its Muscles!

 USA TODAY reported on July 14:

“The deal agreed to Monday between Greece and its creditors was hard fought, and even if Athens did not come out on top, the lengthy negotiations call to mind another Greek battle: the Battle of Marathon, a famous Greek victory against Persian invaders in 490 B.C. that later inspired the marathon run.

“After hours of intense negotiations, Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras accepted terms for a third bailout that were far more onerous than those in the second bailout program, which expired June 30 after Greece rejected further austerity.

“The harshness of the terms and the intransigence of core eurozone creditors, led by Germany, astonished many economists and observers worldwide. The Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman called it ‘vindictive folly’ and suggested it might be a fatal blow against European integration.

“Although many thought Tsipras had a secret agenda to lead Greece out of the euro, he remained faithful to his pledge — and the will of the majority of Greek voters — to stay with the joint currency.

“In fact, it seemed that that particular objective was German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s and Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble’s, with former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis attributing it to Schäuble as a way of enforcing discipline among other euro members.

“In the end, it was Tsipras who reneged on the other half of the pledge that got him elected: that Greece would not accept a bailout ‘at any cost.’

“Faced with the chaos of a collapsing economy and failing banks, which forced Greeks to scramble for food and risk running out of essential medicine, Tsipras ended up accepting austerity terms Greek voters had decisively rejected in a referendum last week.

“It was Merkel who remained firm in her declared objective to keep Greece in the euro but not ‘at any cost.’

“So is Merkel the winner and Tsipras the loser?

“It depends on what time frame you look at. In the very short term, Merkel has clearly won this battle.

“But in the longer term — can we now call it a war? — this ‘victory’ could produce a political backlash throughout Europe, with fateful consequences for the future of ‘ever-closer union’ in the eurozone and European Union, a 28-nation political bloc.

“Germany has made it clear that Europe will operate strictly on terms set in Berlin and Frankfurt. Voters in France, Spain, Italy and other eurozone countries have to decide if that’s the future they want for their countries.

“Even many voters in Germany have grown uncomfortable with Merkel’s display of naked power after she submitted another freely elected European leader to what one eurozone official at Sunday night’s negotiations termed, according to The Guardian, ‘extensive mental waterboarding.’”

Germans Dislike/Mistrust the Deal

The Local wrote on July 14:

“The deal on Greek reforms has been met with horror in certain quarters, as German journalists worry that their government is undermining 70 years of post-war diplomacy.

 “Merkel and her hardline finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, drove a tough bargain at the marathon negotiations, in line with Berlin’s stated goal of defending the cause of fiscal rectitude. But while Merkel, often called Europe’s de facto leader, has grown used to Nazi caricatures on the streets of Athens, a backlash appeared to be mounting this time at home too. Commentators of all political stripes said they feared that Berlin’s ‘bad cop’ stance in Brussels had brought back ‘ugly German’ stereotypes of rigid, brutal rule enforcers.

 “‘The German government destroyed seven decades of post-war diplomacy on a single weekend,’ news website Spiegel Online said. ‘There is a fine line between saving and punishing Greece. This night the line has disappeared,’ tweeted Mathias Mueller von Blumencron of the conservative standard-bearer Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung as the details of the German-brokered austerity-for-aid deal emerged. ‘Merkel managed to revive the image of the ugly, hard-hearted and stingy German that had just begun to fade,’ the centre-left daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung wrote…

“The German public though were more receptive to the deal.  A clear majority (62 percent) … voiced their support for Greece staying in the euro. But at the same time only a minority said they believed the Greek government would implement the reform package it has promised… These numbers have changed significantly in just a matter of weeks. When Tsipras announced that he would take the creditors’ proposals to a referendum at the start of July an equal number of Germans were for a Grexit as wanted the country to stay in the euro, at 45 percent…

“After a shock Schäuble proposal for a temporary Greek exit from the euro or ‘Grexit’ surfaced over the weekend… Spiegel called the package that was finally hammered out a ‘catalogue of cruelties’ that read like a ‘plan to humiliate Greece’.

“… former foreign minister Joschka Fischer said the Greek crisis had given rise to a rebirth of nationalism and accused Merkel of failing to use her considerable power to persuade Germans to look beyond their pocketbooks for the sake of Europe. Merkel, who in November will celebrate a decade in power and enjoys nearly 70-percent approval ratings, ‘as not argued or acted politically but as a bookkeeper’, he said.”

Britain to Pay for Greece?

Breitbart wrote on July 14:

“Britain could face a bill of up to £850m for [the] latest Greek bailout as European leaders desperately search for money for the heavily indebted nation. Although Britain is signed up to an emergency EU fund, Prime Minister David Cameron believes he has won an opt-out as the UK is not a member of the Eurozone. However, EU Commission President Jean Claude-Juncker is desperate to raise funds to keep Greece in the euro.

 “Greece needs €12bn to prevent it going into economic meltdown, and Britain could face £850m in liabilities if it is ordered to join the bailout. Any such move would likely enrage Conservative Eurosceptics and seriously weaken David Cameron’s attempts to EU renegotiation, thus playing into the hands of UKIP.

“Chancellor George Osborne has promised to fight attempts to raid British taxpayers’ money to pay for Greece…

“Britain was originally signed up to the European Financial Stabilisation Mechanism (EFSM), a €60bn fund, until it was ‘deactivated’ in 2011 after the EU created a bigger and more flexible fund that did not include Britain… France already wants to bring back the EFSM, and if German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble agrees, George Osborne could find himself outvoted…”

Would Britain Prosper from a Brexit?

Breitbart wrote on July 12:

“Britain has nothing to lose and everything to gain from leaving the European Union. A seamless Brexit could even spark a free market ‘chain reaction’ across the continent, driving the likes of Denmark and Sweden to take control of their own destiny…

“Britain [was encouraged] to rejoin the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), of which the UK was a founding member. Its members – Iceland, Switzerland, Norway, and Liechtenstein – enjoy access to the EU’s common market, but are not subjected to the same political controls imposed by Brussels… The EU has declined in importance as a trade destination for the UK, with just 45.3 per cent of its goods exports headed to the political union in May, down from a peak of 66 per cent in the early 2000s…”

In an accompanying article, Breitbart wrote on July 12:

“Britain receives less than half the money it puts into the EU back as subsidies thanks to the ongoing Eurozone crisis, a new report has found. The report also found that British households could be as much as £933 a year better off if Britain left the EU. The think tank which compiled the report advised that staying within the EU poses ‘serious risks’.

“The comprehensive new report from Business for Britain, runs to a mammoth 1,032 pages, has found that, between 1976 and 2003 the average return from Britain’s financial input into the EU was 68 per cent, meaning that, for every £1 British taxpayers paid into the European project, just 68 pence was returned in grants and subsidies. That figure alone is enough to demonstrate that membership of the EU can only ever be justified on ideological, not economic grounds. But since the Eurozone crisis which began in 2008, the figure has dramatically worsened to the point that just 49 pence in each pound are now returned to British coffers, less than half of what is paid in.

“The report… notes that if Britain stopped paying into the EU, it is not just the direct payments which would be saved: ‘Without paying into the central EU Budget, the UK would make administrative savings by removing an extra tier of administration, add new options for efficiency savings, and could identify projects where it saw greater investment return.’ But direct payments from the government are not the only form of payments into the EU. Previous research by Business for Britain has already revealed how Brits pay more into the EU than citizens of other member states through VAT payments…

“… the authors… highlight that membership of the EU has never been about the economics. ‘The EU’s overriding objective has always been political,’ they say… The Eurozone is separating into ‘Euromark’ and ‘Eurodrachma’ groups… Even within the Eurozone there already exists a ‘two tier Europe’…”

Greece in Much Bigger Need of Help

Reuters reported on July 14:

“Greece will need far bigger debt relief than euro zone partners have been prepared to envisage so far due to the devastation of its economy and banks in the last two weeks, a confidential study by the International Monetary Fund seen by Reuters shows. The updated debt sustainability analysis (DSA) was sent to euro zone governments late on Monday, hours after Athens and its 18 partners agreed in principle to open negotiations on a third bailout program of up to 86 billion euros in return for tougher austerity measures and structural reforms.

“European countries would have to give Greece a 30-year grace period on servicing all its European debt, including new loans, and a very dramatic maturity extension, or else make explicit annual fiscal transfers to the Greek budget or accept ‘deep upfront haircuts’ on their loans to Athens, the report said.

“The latest IMF study said Greek debt would now peak at close to 200 percent of economic output in the next two years, compared to a previously forecast high of 177 percent.

“Even by 2022, the debt would stand at 170 percent of gross domestic product, compared to an estimate of 142 percent issued just two weeks ago…”

Greek Parliament Approves EU Austerity Measures

Deutsche Welle wrote on July 15:

“Greece’s parliament has approved a raft of fresh austerity imposed by international creditors… ‘We don’t believe in it,’ Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said ahead of the vote early Thursday, ‘but we are forced to adopt it.’”

The Washington Post wrote on July 15:

“Hours after police and demonstrators clashed in central Athens, Greek lawmakers early Thursday morning approved austerity measures that were overwhelmingly rejected by their citizens just days ago, in a stark turnabout that was the price Greece’s lenders demanded for not forcing it off the euro and into a whirlwind of economic turmoil.

“The vote reverberated around Europe, marking a stunning defeat for populist forces that have pushed for a break from years of grinding cuts that powerhouse economies led by Germany have enforced as the key to growth. In the new topsy-turvy reality, leftist Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras was tasked with advocating a stricter version of the austerity he has long opposed. Many of his allies abandoned him, saying their nation was taking more of the same toxic medicine that had forced it into five years of penury.

“The adoption of the new measures was a milestone on the road toward European approval of an up to $96 billion bailout, sparing Greece from certain bankruptcy and its ouster from the shared euro currency. Already, banks have been closed for more than two weeks. With a dearth of cash to fuel basic transactions, Greece’s economy is slowly suffocating under the pressure.

“Greek leaders were stuck Wednesday urging the approval of measures to which they could offer only tepid support, acknowledging that they may send their country into deeper recession…”

Trump the Clear Frontrunner

 Breitbart wrote on July 14:

“A new poll from USA Today and Suffolk University finds that billionaire Donald Trump is the clear Republican frontrunner for 2016.

“Trump leads the GOP field with 17 percent in the poll, whereas former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush trails him by three points at 14 percent.”

Breitbart added the following commentary on July 14:

“Finally! A great, unifying figure emerges in American politics to bring the endlessly bickering factions here in Washington back together again. Not since 9/11 has everyone in Washington rallied in such unison as they do now — vehemently opposed to the presidential campaign of Donald Trump. But unlike 9/11, the sophisticates and kleptocrats in both parties of Washington find themselves wildly out of step with actual American voters…

“Professional Republicans denounce him. Conservative commentators mock him and insist he is no part of the Grand Old Party. Professional Democrats abhor him and smear him as a racist boob. Liberal commentators predict that he will destroy the Republican Party… People here in Washington despise voters and think you are stupid and not to be taken seriously. You are rude and vulgar and uneducated.

“Take Mr. Trump’s comments about the illegals streaming across the border from Mexico who commit these heinous crimes… This was not a polite thing to say. But it is absolutely, incontrovertibly true. Just ask the grieving family of Kathryn Steinle out in California. And polls show that American voters in both parties agree with Mr. Trump and desperately want the crisis to be fixed.

“But in this ever-lying world of Washington politics, it is wrong to speak the truth if it is shocking or unpleasant. Which, of course, is how this country has gotten into the terrible fix we are in today. So Mr. Trump is denounced from every corner, branded as a racist and excommunicated by proper politicos of every stripe…

“Nobody is talking about people of Mexican extraction who are living and working legally in America. This is about illegal Mexicans illegally crossing the border and illegally committing atrocious crimes, in many cases even after they have been deported — repeatedly! It is about a broken border and a broken immigration system…”

The Biggest “Data Hack” in US History!

 The Washington Post reported on July 10:

“Office of Personnel Management Director Katherine Archuleta resigned under pressure ­Friday, a day after the Obama administration announced that two major breaches of U.S. government databases holding personnel records and security-clearance files exposed the sensitive information of at least 22.1 million people.

“Archuleta, who had been leading the agency for 17 months, had been under fire from Republicans and Democrats in Congress and federal employee unions in the five weeks since she disclosed a massive hack of the employment files of 4.2 million current and former federal employees. But calls for her resignation grew late Thursday after administration officials revealed the full scope of a second hack that compromised background investigation files of federal employees, contractors, applicants and their families.”

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