June 15th, 2013

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CARDENAS: The ‘Cubanization’ of Venezuela
Domination by the Castros has accelerated since Chavez’s death

One of the greatest ironies of the late strongman Hugo Chavez’s rule was that even as he attempted to personify Venezuelan nationalism, he was quietly outsourcing more and more of the country’s sovereignty to the Castro brothers in Cuba. Today, with conditions in the country spiraling after April’s tainted election to guarantee the continuation of Chavismo, Cuba’s flagrant interference in Venezuelan affairs has become downright obscene.

As Venezuela’s former ambassador to the United Nations, Diego Arria, put it recently: “Venezuela is an occupied country. The Venezuelan regime is a puppet controlled by the Cubans. It is no longer Cuban tutelage; it is control.”
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Moderate in Iranian Election Takes Strong Lead in Early Returns

TEHRAN — Iranian officials spent Saturday tallying votes in the nation’s presidential election, with a surge of interest apparently swinging the tide in the favor of the most moderate candidate. With a fraction of the vote counted, the moderate, Hassan Rowhani, was holding a strong lead, but it was uncertain whether he would exceed the 50 percent threshold needed to avoid a runoff next week.With long lines at the polls on Friday, voting hours were extended by five hours in parts of Tehran and four hours in the rest of the country. Turnout reached 75 percent, by official count, as disaffected members of the Green Movement, which was crushed in the uprising that followed the disputed 2009 presidential election, dropped a threatened boycott and appeared to coalesce behind Mr. Rowhani, a cleric, and the mayor of Tehran, Mohammad Baqer Ghalibaf.

By late afternoon on Saturday, the preliminary results showed Mr. Rowhani with slightly more than half the votes, followed by Mr. Ghalibaf, who was trailing far behind. Iran’s interior minister, Mostafa Mohammad Najjar, did not say when the final results would be available. Iran has more than 50 million eligible voters andas of midday Saturday nearly 16 million votes had been counted.

Tehran appeared to be deserted, despite the fact that Saturday is the first day of the week there, as people stayed home to watch the election results unfold.

The early results seemed to repudiate the coalition of conservative clerics and Revolutionary Guard commanders, the so-called traditionalists, who consolidated power after the 2009 election, which the opposition said was rigged. The traditionalists’ favored candidate, Saeed Jalili, Iran’s chief nuclear negotiator and a protégé of the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, did not seem to have gained much traction with the public, emphasizing vague concepts like “Islamic society” and standing up to Western pressure.

Interior Ministry officials who had access to the preliminary tallies said that Mr. Rowhani appeared to be the clear winner in some cities. Abbas Ali Kadkhodaei, the spokesman for the Guardian Council, warned against publishing any rumored results until the official results were in.

Mr. Rowhani even managed to do well in the city of Qom, the center of Iranian theological scholarship, the early results showed, suggesting that the desire for a more responsive government extends throughout society.

Ayatollah Khamenei praised the voting in a Twitter post on Saturday despite the fact that the traditionalists’ favored candidate appeared far behind.

“A vote for any of these candidates is a vote for the Islamic Republic and a vote of confidence in the system,” he said.

Many veteran Iran political watchers, who had expected a conservative winner in what had been a carefully vetted and controlled campaign, expressed surprise at the early results.

“If the reports are true, it tells me that there was a hidden but huge reservoir of reformist energy in Iran that broke loose in a true political wave,” said Cliff Kupchan, an Iran analyst for the Eurasia Group, a political risk consulting firm in Washington. “It was unpredictable — not even tip of the iceberg visible two days or three days ago — but it seems to have happened.”

Farideh Farhi, an Iran scholar at the University of Hawaii, while careful not to draw conclusions until the official result was known, said it was clear that reformers and other disaffected voters in Iran had mobilized a heavy turnout despite doubts about the system.

“Everyone’s assumption was they would not be able to create a wave of voters in the society,” Ms. Farhi said. “This outcome was not something planned by Ayatollah Khamenei.”

In surveys and interviews throughout the campaign, Iranians have consistently listed the economy, individual rights and the normalization of relations with the rest of the world as their top priorities. They also said they saw the vote as a way to send a message about their displeasure with the direction of Iran, which has been hobbled by economic mismanagement and tough Western sanctions, stemming from the government’s refusal to stop enriching uranium.

Mr. Rowhani, a former nuclear negotiator, had been criticized by Mr. Jalili as being too willing to bargain away Iran’s nuclear program, which the West says is a cover for developing nuclear weapons but Tehran says is for peaceful purposes.

But Mr. Rowhani seemed to strike a more popular chord by promoting more freedoms and rights for women, and gained momentum late in the campaign with the withdrawal of the only other candidate with any reformist tendencies and the endorsement of Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, 78, a moderate former president who was disqualified by the Guardian Council, which vets all presidential candidates.

While not claiming victory, Mr. Rowhani’s campaign released a statement on Saturday urging the authorities to conduct a clean count. “We hope that the respected Guardian Council and the election headquarters of the country will follow the guidelines of the supreme leader regarding protecting the peoples’ rights in counting the votes,” it read.

Mr. Rowhani’s closest competitor in the early results, Mr. Ghalibaf, is also considered a moderate and a strong manager who has improved the quality of life in Tehran in his eight years as mayor. The other four candidates, all conservatives, seemed to be trailing badly.

Mr. Jalili, known for his unyielding stance as a nuclear negotiator, had been considered a front-runner less than three weeks ago. But his campaign never gained much momentum, and in his public statements and appearances he appeared to have little knowledge of Iran’s economic problems, one of the biggest concerns here.

In the Iranian political system, the president appoints governors, some members of the cabinet and other officials, and has some say in economic policy. But all power ultimately resides with the supreme leader, particularly in foreign policy and the nuclear program.

Buy as the departing incumbent, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, made clear with his bombastic appearances at the United Nations and his express desire to see Israel “wiped off the map,” the president can have a profound effect in setting the tone in Iran. Analysts said they expected the election of either Mr. Rowhani or Mr. Ghalibaf might soften Tehran’s confrontational tone, if not its actual stance in negotiations.

As the counting continued into Saturday, officials issued an edict that all candidates to avoid any gatherings until the official result was announced. The order was a reminder of the political minefield presented by the election, which descended into protest and chaos four years ago when pro-reformist candidates accused the authorities of rigging the vote to ensure Mr. Ahmadinejad’s re-election. He was not eligible for a third term.

Wary of stirring those passions, the authorities banned street rallies and limited the candidates to smaller meetings in enclosed spaces like theaters and gymnasiums. After casting his ballot, Ayatollah Khamenei went out of his way to reassure Iranians that the vote would be free and fair.

“I have advice for the people in charge of ballot boxes and counting the votes,” he said. “They need to know that they are the trustee of the people and their vote needs to be preserved, and this is the people’s right.”

The top election official in Tehran Province, which includes the capital and is the country’s largest urban area, said at least 70 percent of voters had cast ballots by the end of Friday. “The political epic that the leader expected took place,” the official, Safar Ali Baratloo, was quoted as saying by the Iranian Students’ News Agency.

Mr. Rowhani was drawing a number of votes in Geysha, a middle-class Tehran neighborhood. “He will change this country,” said Golnaz, 20, who refused to give her family name for security reasons. “We need change.”

But there were some doubts about just how much would change even with a more moderate president. Addressing American skepticism about the outcome as he exhorted Iranians to vote, Ayatollah Khamenei told reporters: “To hell with you if you do not believe in our election. If the Iranian nation had to wait for you to see what you believe in and what you do not, then the Iranian nation would have lagged behind.”

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Here we go again. Hopefully this won't be the fiasco that the last election was.

I could have sworn we had a "here go hell come" tag.

Hasan Rowhani, a Moderate Candidate, Declared Winner of Iran’s Presidential Vote

Iran Moderate Wins Presidency By Large Margin

TEHRAN — In a striking repudiation of the ultraconservatives who wield power in Iran, voters here overwhelmingly elected a mild-mannered cleric who advocates greater personal freedoms and a more conciliatory approach to the world.

Iranian state television reported Saturday that the cleric, Hassan Rowhani, 64, won more than 50 percent of the vote, enough to avoid a runoff in the race to replace the departing president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose tenure was defined largely by provocation with the West and a seriously hobbled economy at home.

The hard-line conservatives aligned with the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, finished at the back of the pack of six candidates, indicating that Iranians were looking to their next president to change the tone, if not the direction of the nation, by choosing a cleric who served as the lead nuclear negotiator under an earlier reformist president, Mohammad Khatami.

During the Khatami era, Iran froze its nuclear program, eased social restrictions and promoted dialogue with the West, changes that give reformers hope that Mr. Rowhani can also lead Iran out of isolation and religious reaction.

But if the election, which electrified a nation that had lost faith in its electoral process, was a victory for reformers and the middle class, it also served the goals of the supreme leader, restoring at least a patina of legitimacy to the theocratic state, providing a safety valve for a public distressed by years of economic malaise and isolation, and returning a cleric to the presidency. Mr. Ahmadinejad was the first noncleric to hold the presidency, and often clashed with the religious order and its traditionalist allies.

The question for Western capitals is whether a more conciliatory approach can lead to substantive change in the conflict with Iran over its nuclear program. A willingness to talk does not mean a willingness to concede.

On Saturday a member of Parliament, Sharif Husseini, warned that “nothing would change” in Iran’s nuclear policies regardless of the election’s outcome. ”All these policies have been decided by the supreme leader,” he was quoted as saying by the Iranian Students’ News Agency. Collapse )

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I didn't forget the cut and this one is more timely than the one I submitted earlier anyway. So... potential reformer or feel good do-nothing?
Loki-whut.

Woman Being Denied Citizenship Because Her Morality Doesn't Come From Religion

June 14, 2013 · by Kevin Davis

Margaret Doughty, a 64-year old woman from the UK who has spent the past 30+ years in the U.S., is in the process of applying for United States Citizenship and happens to be an atheist. She is currently a permanent resident running non-profit adult literacy organizations, doing her part to enrich the lives of American citizens. In the process of applying for citizenship, all candidates are asked if they’d be willing to take up arms in defense of the United States of America.Collapse )
barn owl

Redondo Beach man shot at by Torrance police during Christopher Dorner pursuit to file lawsuit

A Redondo Beach surfer shot at by Torrance police officers who mistakenly believed he was fugitive cop Christopher Dorner is poised to file a lawsuit next week alleging the incident destroyed his life and he can no longer work and can barely talk or walk.

David Perdue, 38, has suffered a concussion, vertigo and post traumatic stress since the Feb. 7 shooting that occurred moments after Los Angeles police officers fired at two female newspaper carriers, also mistakenly believing they were Dorner.


"David can barely walk at this point," his attorney, Robert Sheahen, said Friday. "(His wife) said, `I never thought that at age 27, I would have two kids without a father, and I would be a caretaker for a husband who turned into a 70-year-old man."'

Sheahen said mediation efforts with Torrance attorneys to reach a settlement failed Thursday after a nearly four-hour session with a retired judge.

"Torrance is just insulting him," Sheahen said. "They finally, at the end, agreed to give him Blue Book value for the truck."
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This whole situation is just sad and, for me, a little spooky because this all happened right around where I live and surf, and I was lucky to not be in the wrong place at the wrong time. It makes me wonder if I or my dad ever seen or talked to the guy in the water.
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For Profit National Security: The Best Security Money Can Buy.

The Security Industrial Complex
The culture of secrecy in Washington has become absurd.

An odd thing is happening in the world's self-declared pinnacle of democracy. No one -- except a handful of elected officials and an army of contractors -- is allowed to know how America's surveillance leviathan works.

For the last two years, Senators Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Mark Udall (D-Colo.) have tried to describe to the American public the sweeping surveillance the National Security Agency conducts inside and outside the United States. But secrecy rules block them from airing the simplest details.

Over the last few days, President Barack Obama and Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the chairwoman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, have both said they welcome a national debate about the surveillance programs. But the president and senator have not used their power to declassify information that would make that debate possible.

"I flew over the World Trade Center going to Senator Lautenberg's funeral," Feinstein said this Sunday on ABC's "This Week," referring to New Jersey Senator Frank Lautenberg. "And I thought of those bodies jumping out of that building hitting the canopy. Part of our obligation is keeping America safe."

Feinstein is right, but our obsession with preventing terrorist attacks is warping our political debate and threatening basic rights. Edward Snowden's release of classified documents has exposed two destructive post-2001 dynamics: the rise of secrecy and contractors.
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