If you want to keep ANY credibility!
By Anne Gearan, Karen DeYoung and and Will Englund, Updated: Monday, September 9, 6:35 PM
President Obama on Monday called a Russian proposal for Syria to turn over control of its chemical weapons to international monitors in order to avoid a military strike a “potentially positive development,” that could represent a “significant breakthrough,” but he said he remains skeptical the Syrian government would follow through on its obligations based on its recent track record.
“Between the statements that we saw from the Russians — the statement today from the Syrians — this represents a potentially positive development,” Obama said in an interview with NBC News, according to a transcript provided by the network. “We are going to run this to ground. [Secretary of State] John Kerry will be talking to his Russian counterpart. We’re going to make sure that we see how serious these proposals are.”
In a separate interview with ABC, Obama said that if Assad were to give up his chemical weapons, a military strike would “absolutely’ be on pause.
The proposal by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov in Moscow offered the first indication that a diplomatic solution may be possible to the international standoff that has evolved since apparent chemical weapons attacks on rebel-held suburbs outside Damascus on Aug. 21.
In Washington, deputy national security adviser Tony Blinken told reporters Monday that the United States “would welcome a decision and action by Syria to give up its chemical weapons.” But he expressed skepticism that Syria would do so. In response to the Russian proposal, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid delayed a Senate test vote authorizing military force in Syria that was planned for Wednesday.
Hours earlier, in London, Secretary of State John F. Kerry sketched out a transfer-of-control scenario similar to the Russian proposal, then dismissed it, after being asked by a reporter whether there was anything that Assad could do to avoid an attack. “Sure, he could turn over every bit of his weapons to the international community within the next week, without delay,” Kerry said. “But he isn’t about to.”
Kerry also sparked criticism by commenting that any U.S. strike would be “an unbelievably small, limited kind of effort.”
Former secretary of state Hillary Rodham Clinton said after a meeting with President Obama that if Syria immediately surrenders its chemical weapons, “that would be an important step, but this cannot be another excuse for delay or obstruction.”
Gen. Salim Idriss, chief of staff of the rebel Free Syrian Army, described the Syrian government’s acceptance of the Russian proposal as a “new lie” aimed at heading off intervention.
Kerry learned of the Russian proposal before it was made, when he received a call from Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov about two hours into a flight to Washington from London, a senior State Department official said. Lavrov said Russia was “willing to engage” on the issue of weapons inspections and surrender of Syria’s chemical stocks, and he made specific reference to the possibility of U.S. action.
Kerry “expressed serious skepticism and said the United States was ‘not going to play games,’ ” said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity to describe the conversation. While Kerry told Lavrov the United States would consider a serious proposal, the official made clear that he did not consider the Russian statement Monday to be one. Kerry “also made clear that [the Russian statement] cannot or will not be a reason to delay our efforts with Congress to authorize the president’s proposal” for a military strike, and he cautioned the Russians not to portray their gambit as a “joint U.S.-Russian proposal,” the official said, adding: “We have seen no details; we have seen no ‘proposal.’ ”
Kerry “still feels it is not possible” to arrange an adequate inspection and verifiable destruction of Syrian weapons in any reasonable time frame, the official said. The Obama administration had “batted around” in the past the idea of an ultimatum to Syria on giving up its chemical weapons, but that the idea had died internally when it was judged too complicated and likely to provoke Syrian subterfuge and delay, the official noted.
Lavrov had also previously discussed the idea in conversations with Kerry, including a telephone call as recently as Thursday, the official said, but never in the context of the proposed U.S. military action.
Last month’s reported chemical attacks, which the United States says killed more than 1,400 civilians, brought world-wide condemnation, as well as vows of military action by Obama, who had previously described the use of such banned weapons as a “red line.” But Russia, which is Syria’s chief patron, blocked efforts to generate a response by the U.N. Security Council. And the United States has struggled to build support for unilateral military strikes, although the White House announced Monday that 13 more countries have signed a statement holding the Syrian government responsible for last month’s attack.
On Monday, while meeting with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem, Lavrov said his country would ask Syria to relinquish control of its chemical weapons to international monitors to prevent a U.S. strike. Lavrov also called on Syria to sign and ratify the Convention on Chemical Weapons, which outlaws the production, stockpiling and use of chemical weapons.
“If the establishment of international control over chemical weapons in that country will avoid strikes, we will immediately begin working with Damascus,” Lavrov said. “We call on the Syrian leadership not only to agree on a statement of storage of chemical weapons under international supervision, but also to their subsequent destruction.”
Moualem said Syria “welcomes the Russian initiative,” but he did not say whether his country would agree to what Russia was asking. “We also welcome the wisdom of the Russian leadership, which is trying to prevent American aggression against our people,” Moulaem said.
In a White House news briefing, Blinken said, “We want to take a hard look at the proposal” and talk to the Russians about it. He noted that the international community has tried for 20 years to get Syria to sign on to the Chemical Weapons Convention and that Assad only last week refused to admit that he even has chemical weapons, “despite overwhelming evidence.”
He said U.S. intelligence believes that Assad ultimately controls the deployment of chemical weapons in Syria.
“We would welcome Assad giving up his chemical weapons and doing it in a verifiable manner,” Blinken said. He added that “unfortunately the track record to date” does not inspire confidence.
Clinton, commenting on the situation in Syria during a speech at the White House on the fight against wildlife trafficking, said Assad’s “inhuman use of weapons of mass destruction against innocent men, women and children violates a universal norm at the heart of our global order, and therefore it demands a strong response from the international community led by the United States.”
She added: “The international community cannot ignore the ongoing threat from the Assad regime’s stockpiles of chemical weapons, whether they are used again against Syrian civilians, or transferred to Hezbollah or stolen by other terrorists. . . . The world will have to deal with this threat as swiftly and as comprehensively as possible. Now if the regime immediately surrendered its stockpiles to international control — as was suggested by Secretary Kerry and the Russians — that would be an important step, but this cannot be another excuse for delay or obstruction. And Russia has to support the international community’s efforts sincerely or be held to account.”
The discussion about transferring control of those weapons could take place only “in the context of a credible military threat by the United States” to maintain pressure on Syria and its allies, Clinton said. She said she would continue to support Obama’s efforts, “and I hope that the Congress will as well.”
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee and a supporter of congressional authorization for U.S. strikes, said in a statement that she, too, would welcome the transfer and destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons.
“I believe that Russia can be most effective in encouraging the Syrian president to stop any use of chemical weapons and place all his chemical munitions, as well as storage facilities, under United Nations control until they can be destroyed,” she said.
Feinstein also noted to reporters that U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and British Prime Minister David Cameron have already signaled support for the plan.
“I think if the U.N. would accept the responsibility of maintaining these [chemical weapons] facilities, seeing that they’re secure and that Syria would announce that it is giving up any chemical weapons programs or delivery system vehicles that may have been armed, then I think we’ve got something,” she said.
Asked about Kerry’s remarks earlier Monday, State Department spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki said Kerry was making a “rhetorical” point in the face of Assad’s long-standing intransigence. “His point was that this brutal dictator with a history of playing fast and loose with the facts cannot be trusted to turn over chemical weapons. Otherwise he would have done so long ago,” Psaki said. “That’s why the world faces this moment.”
Obama has said U.S. intelligence and video documentation clearly show the Syrian government was responsible for last month’s strikes, part of a bloody civil conflict that has killed more than 100,000 people in the past 2 1/2 years. Obama and Kerry are working to win enough support for congressional authorization of a strike.
In an interview Sunday with CBS News, Assad denied that his government had used chemical weapons and warned the United States not to get involved in another Middle Eastern war.
The Syrian dictator said Kerry’s effort to generate support for a strike reminded him of the “big lie” told in early 2003 by then-president George W. Bush’s secretary of state, Colin L. Powell, in justifying what became the U.S. war in Iraq. Powell based his argument for that war on claims that Iraq was harboring weapons of mass destruction, which later proved false.
Kerry emphasized to reporters in London that any strikes ordered by the United States would be limited and would not resemble the lengthy actions in Iraq and Afghanistan that have left a legacy of public resentment.
“We’re not talking about war. We’re not going to war,” Kerry said, describing the proposed strikes as similar to action taken by then-president Ronald Reagan against Libya after the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 in 1988.
“We will be able to hold Bashar al-Assad accountable without engaging in troops on the ground in any kind of prolonged effort, in a very limited, very targeted, very short-term effort that degrades his capacity to deliver chemical weapons without assuming responsibility for Syria’s civil war,” Kerry said. “That is exactly what we’re talking about doing. An unbelievably small, limited kind of effort.”
His words sparked a fresh round of criticism, however, from people who said that describing U.S. plans as “unbelievably small” and “limited” was hardly a good way to take a moral stand against actions the United States has said are untenable.
“Kerry says #Syria strike would be “unbelievably small” — that is unbelievably unhelpful,” Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said on Twitter.
In London on Monday, both Kerry and British Foreign Secretary William Hague dismissed the idea that there was “still time” to avoid consequences for what Obama has called a “horrific” chemical weapons attack. “There can’t be a negotiated settlement if the Assad regime is allowed to eradicate the moderate opposition,” Hague said.
In Paris, a French defense official said France has intelligence that Assad’s “brother, cousins or nephew” might have ordered last month’s chemical weapons attack. Speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss confidential assessments, the official said France believes that the chemical strikes on the Damascus suburbs may have been launched because the Assad government feared “a powerful attack” by Syrian rebels armed with “new, more powerful weaponry” from abroad.
In the event of U.S.-led military action, the official said, France could conduct “very precise strikes without putting too many of our assets at risk.” He said France has cruise missiles that can be fired from planes roughly 30 to 40 miles from their targets.
However, he added, a Western attack “is taking an enormous risk. We are not fools.”
Idriss, the Free Syrian Army chief of staff, dismissed the Assad government’s statement welcoming the Russian proposal, telling Al Jazeera television, “We don’t at all trust this regime.” He cautioned the international community against believing that Damascus would comply.
Syria’s chemical weapons stockpiles are believed to include mustard gas, sarin and other nerve agents. However, uncertainty over the size of the stockpiles makes it unclear how there could be any oversight for a handover.
“It’s just another game by Russia and Assad to save the regime and avoid intervention,” said an opposition activist who volunteered in a makeshift hospital in the Damascus suburbs on the day of the chemical attacks and who uses the pseudonym Tariq al-Dimashqi for security reasons. “We hope that the U.S.A. will intervene, but it now seems that it will not happen,” he said. “They just give [Assad] more time to kill more people.”
During his overseas trip, Kerry appears to have won backing from Saudi Arabia and Qatar for the idea of a U.S. military strike. He also generated additional support for a statement condemning the use of chemical weapons, holding Assad responsible for the strike and calling for a “strong international response.”
The statement was shepherded by the administration after the Group of 20 summit in Russia failed to agree on a common position on Syria last week. The initial signatories to the statement were Australia, Canada, France, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Turkey, Britain and the United States. Germany signed a day later.
On Monday, the White House announced that Albania, Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, Honduras, Hungary, Kosovo, Latvia, Lithuania, Morocco, Qatar, Romania and the United Arab Emirates had signed on as well.
The G-20 nations that did not sign the statement included Brazil, India and Indonesia, along with China and Russia, Assad’s principal arms supplier.
On Saturday, the 28-member European Union unanimously agreed to a similar statement. But neither document mentioned support for a military strike, and the E.U. said there should be no action against Syria until U.N. investigators who visited the site of the alleged chemical attack issue their report later this month. The administration has said the U.N. report is irrelevant because the investigators’ mandate is only to determine whether a chemical weapons attack occurred – which is not in dispute at this point – not who carried it out.
Although administration officials have indicated that they have wide allied backing for military intervention, the only other nations to publicly indicate support are Turkey and France, which said last week it wants to wait for the U.N. report. In Britain, Parliament rejected Prime Minister David Cameron’s request for authorization to join the United States in a military strike.
Saudi Arabia and Qatar have been among the leading arms suppliers to the Syrian rebels and have long backed unspecified direct foreign intervention in Syria. Although neither has said whether it would participate in a U.S.-led military strike, Qatari Foreign Minister Khalid bin Mohammad al-Attiyah said Sunday that his government was considering how it could be of assistance. Qatar sent bombers and other resources to aid the NATO intervention in Libya in 2011.
Speaking through an interpreter, Attiyah said that “the Syrian people over more than three years has been demanding or asking the international community to intervene.”
“Several parties that support the Syrian regime,” he said, have intervened in that country since the war began with an uprising against the government in 2011. He was apparently referring to Iran, Russia and Hezbollah, the militant Lebanese Shiite movement.
Assad, interviewed by Charlie Rose of CBS News in Damascus, said that “it had not been a good experience” for the American people “to get involved in the Middle East in wars and conflicts.” He added that “they should communicate to their Congress and to their leadership in Washington not to authorize a strike.”
Many of Assad’s comments, which were conveyed by Rose in a telephone report from Beirut on CBS’s “Face the Nation” ahead of their broadcast Monday, appeared designed to play on what opinion polls have shown is strong public opposition to U.S. intervention. The comments indicated that Assad is closely following media reports about the U.S. deliberations.
Rose said the Syrian president “denied that he had anything to do with the [chemical] attack. He denied that he knew, in fact, that there was a chemical attack. . . . He said ‘I can’t confirm or deny that we have chemical weapons.’ ”
“He suggested, as he has before, that perhaps the rebels had something to do” with the reported attack, Rose said, and he quoted the Syrian leader as saying there had been no evidence that he had used chemical weapons against his people.
If the Obama administration had evidence, he said, Assad suggested “they should show that evidence and make their case.”
Assad said that his forces “were obviously as prepared as they could be for a strike,” Rose reported, and that he was “very, very concerned” that an American attack would tip the military balance of the war in the rebels’ favor.
Syria won some indirect support of its own Sunday as Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said in a Baghdad news conference with his Iranian counterpart that Iraq “will not be a base for any attack nor will it facilitate any such attack on Syria.”
Speaking during his first visit abroad since his appointment last month, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif warned that U.S. intervention in Syria risks igniting a regionwide war.
“Those who are shortsighted and are beating the drums of war are starting a fire that will burn everyone,” Zarif said.
DeYoung reported from London. Wilgoren reported from Washington. William Branigin in Washington, Michael Birnbaum in Berlin and Liz Sly and Loveday Morris in Beirut contributed to this report.
© The Washington Post Company
90,473,000: Record Number Not in Labor Force–Up Almost 10M Under Obama
(CNSNews.com) – The number of Americans who are 16 years or older and who have decided not to participate in the nation’s labor force has pushed past 90,000,000 for the first time, according to data released today by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
The BLS counts a person as participating in the labor force if they are 16 years or older and either have a job or have actively sought a job in the last four weeks. A person is not participating in the labor force if they are 16 or older and have not sought a job in the last four weeks.
In July, according to BLS, 89,957,000 Americans did not participate in the labor force. In August, that climbed to 90,473,000–a one month increase of 516,000.
In January 2009, when President Barack Obama took office, there were 80,507,000 Americans not in the labor force. Thus, the number of Americans not in the labor force has increased by 9,966,000 during Obama’s presidency.
Part of the increase in the number Americans not participating in the labor force can be explained by Baby Boomers reaching retirement age and deciding to stop working–and not be replaced by an equal number of younger people reaching age 16 and thus becoming part of the BLS labor force population.
However, it is also true that the overall percentage of the non-institutionalized population over the age of 16 that is working or seeking to work in the United States–which BLS calls the employment-population ratio–has declined significantly in recent years.
From July to August, it dropped from 58.7 percent to 58.6 percent. In January 2009, when President Barack Obama took office, it was 60.6 percent. It reached an historical peak in April 2000, when it was 64.7 percent.
How can I get 800 hp out of this????
In a recent interview with National Journal, former Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said that she has no desire to lead the U.S. House of Representatives again.
“No, that’s not my thing. I did that,” Pelosi commented. She also elaborated that she doesn’t comment on the current speaker, Republican John Boehner because “the position that he holds is a very exalted one.”
Pelosi did however have suggestions for the Republican Party under Boehner’s leadership.
“Take back your party. This isn’t the Grand Old Party that used to have such great leadership. The name ‘Republican’ in some ways has been hijacked by obstructionists. They are nowhere on the spectrum of trying to get the job done, and they claim the name without bringing to it the greatness, the leadership of the past,” Pelosi said.
Pelosi remains infamous for her liberal beliefs and was a well known obstructionist, herself, during her time as speaker of the House from 2007 to 2011.