The interim agreement with Iran is not the final agreement and shouldn't be judged as such; its purpose is to buy time. Increased sanctions won't stop Iran. Military action could delay Iran and might stop Iran, but at an uncertain cost.
The diplomatic solution made possible by the interim agreement would be the best solution, but we may have no choice but to take military action. Attempting diplomacy through the interim agreement will increase the likelihood that tougher sanctions can be put in place and that military action will succeed, should either alternative become necessary.
The graph on the right shows how the United States stands out in the world of health care; we spend far more on healthcare than any other country but our life expectancy is lower than most advanced nations.
However, now that healthcare.gov is back online, many Americans have turned back their personal cost-curve on health care. Even Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) was embarrassed by his success in signing up for Obamacare during a big show he orchestrated in order to demonstrate the failure of the website. (According to NBC, a DC Health Care exchange representative actually tried to contact Boehner by phone during the enrollment process but was put on hold for 35 minutes.)
Judith Silverstein, 49, a Californian who was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2007. Her family helps her pay the $750 monthly cost of her existing plan--which she only had because of federal law requiring that insurers who provide employer-based insurance continue to offer coverage if the employer goes out of business, as hers did. Next year she'll get a subsidy that will get her a good "silver" level plan for $50.
Just five minutes before noon today, I took part in a wonderful ritual. One of the members of a men's group that began 30 years ago - Jeffrey Dekro, founder of the Isaiah Fund [see below for an explanation] — called me and its other members to remind us to turn on our radios. He has been doing this, year after year on Thanksgiving Day, for almost all those thirty years.
Every year at noon on Thanksgiving, WXPN Radio in Philadelphia plays Arlo Guthrie's "Alice's Restaurant," about a Thanksgiving dinner in Stockbridge Mass. in 1967; about obtuse cops; and about nonviolent resistance to a brutal war.
Mayor Michael Nutter joined the festivities as enormous Hanukkah Menorahs were lit at Philadelphia's 30th Street Station and on Independence Mall. The Philadelphia Lubavitcher Center says the Menorah on Independence Mall is the largest menorah in the world.
Photo of the Mayor Nutter and the 30th Street Station Menorah by Gabrielle Loeb.
Videos of the National Menorah lighting near the White House follow the jump.
You have all read about the election results of Virginia, New York and New Jersey, but here is something that will not make it to the national press.
In my own little corner of Chester County, Pennsylvania, the Democrats ran five candidates: two for supervisor at large, two for school board, and one for a regional supervisor. They won four of the five races.
Among the wonderful aspects of our Jewish community in Philadelphia is the close relationship we have with the State of Israel. We do not take that relationship for granted. It comes as the product of hard work, constant communication and, perhaps most importantly, personal contact. The close personal contact we have with Israel in Philadelphia comes from the warm relationship which we have with the Israel Consulate and, specifically, the Consul General.
I was saddened to receive the news that the government in Israel is considering closing our Consulate. Understanding the financial burdens which weigh on the State of Israel, I am sympathetic to the need to cut costs in many programs. At the same time, the work of the Consul General and the Consulate creates the close and warm bond which we feel toward Israel, ultimately impacting positively on Israel's economy through our support. We benefit from the Consul and his office through his personal presence at so many of our synagogues and Jewish Institutions. He provides a friendly and knowledgeable voice for the State when he speaks, contributing strong support for Israel when she is attacked, a voice of reason, warmth and encouragement for those of us who work to support Israel.
Haredim (ultra-Orthodox groups in Israel) have been opposing efforts by the Women of the Wall to allow women to pray at the Western Wall just as men have been able to do since 1967. However, while progressive women have been arrested for praying at the Wall as part of their call to end segregation there, Haredim (including American Orthodox Jews) have been arrested in Hebron as they protested against the segregation imposed on the settlers there:
Members of All That's Left, a collective of activists committed to ending the occupation, marked the eve of Shabbat Chayei Sarah by staging a protest against segregation in the city of Hebron. During Shabbat Chayei Sarah, thousands of Jews gather in Hebron to celebrate the reading of the biblical passage in which Abraham purchases the Cave of the Patriarchs, a site located in the center of modern-day Hebron.
The activists intended to erect a tent on the city's segregated Shuhada Street, adorned with signs reading, "Segregation is not my Judaism," and to hold an alternative study session examining the Chayei Sarah text. The tent was to resemble Abraham's Tent, which according to traditional Jewish exegesis was open on all four sides so that any passing stranger would know s/he was welcome.
Contrary to the upbeat hype trumpeted by the US, British and Iranian media, Washington has quietly told Tehran through their regular backdoor lines that the "proposals" put to last week's Geneva conference were too meager for further nuclear diplomacy. "Go back and start from scratch," was the message.
Kerry and Netanyahu Agree on Approach to Iran
Secretary of State John Kerry met today with the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, to discuss Iran and the Israeli-Arab peace talks, at the U.S. Ambassador's residence in Rome, Italy.
Before their meeting, the two carried short remarks. About Iran, Kerry said:
We have said, President Obama has made it very clear he will pursue a diplomatic initiative, but with eyes wide open, aware that it will be vital for Iran to live up to the standards that other nations that have nuclear programs live up to as they prove that those programs are indeed peaceful. I have said a number of times, President Obama has said a number of times, and I reiterate today, no deal is better than a bad deal. But if this can be solved satisfactorily, diplomatically, it is clearly better for everyone. And we are looking for an opportunity to be able to do that.
Preventing that is a goal I share with you and President Obama. And you have said, I think wisely, that Iran must not have a nuclear weapons capability, which means that they shouldn't have centrifuges for enrichment. They shouldn't have a plutonium heavy water plant which is used only for nuclear weapons. They should get rid of the amassed fissile material. And they shouldn't have underground nuclear facilities, underground for one reason — for military purposes.
About the peace talks, Kerry said:
Thanks to the courage of the Prime Minister and the courage of President Abbas, both of whom took risks to reengage in talks, our negotiators have been meeting now — our negotiators — the facilitator, which is the United States, and the two parties are the negotiators — but the Palestinians and the Israelis have come together now some 13 times and are meeting even now as we are here. And our Special Envoy for these talks, Martin Indyk, is in Jerusalem and helping to facilitate those discussions.
That peace is premised on mutual recognition of two states for two peoples — the Palestinian state for the Palestinian people mirrored by the Jewish state for the Jewish people. I think that's fundamental for any peace, but equally it must be a peace that — as President Obama has said — a peace that Israel can defend by itself, for itself against any conceivable threat.
— by Jason Furman, Chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors
While job growth remained solid in September, there is no question that the focus of policy should be on how to achieve a faster pace of job growth by increasing certainty and investing in jobs, rather than the self-inflicted wounds of the past several weeks that increased uncertainty and inhibited job growth. Today's delayed report describes the economy more than a month ago. More recent indicators suggest the labor market worsened in the month of October.
As my colleague Laura Clawson noted last week, the Republican shutdown of the federal government is literally taking food out of babies' mouths. In North Carolina, the state has stopped issuing vouchers for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC). This provides money for healthy food as well as infant formula and a support program for breast-feeding.
But, Patrick Center reports, WIC is not the only nutrition program that's being held hostage to the tea party's crusade. So is the USDA's Commodity Supplemental Food Program.
Speaker of the House John Boehner claimed, "There are not the votes in the House to pass a clean CR [continuing resolution]" and reopen the government. To that, President Obama called on Boehner to "prove it:"
If Republicans and Speaker Boehner are saying there are not enough votes, then they should prove it. Let the bill go to the floor and lets see what happens. Just vote. Let every member of Congress vote their conscience and they can determine whether or not they want to shut the government down.
My suspicion is, my very strong suspicion is, there are enough votes there, and the reason Speaker Boehner hasn't called a vote on it is because he doesn't apparently want to see the government shutdown end at the moment unless he's able to extract concessions that don't have anything to do with budget.
The House has already voted 46 times in a quixotic attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Why not try one up-or-down vote to fund the government? And another vote to raise the debt limit consistent with the spending Congress has already authorized?
Even if Boehner is right and there aren't enough votes, what do we have to lose? If indeed a majority of the House is determined to keep government shutdown and undermine the credit worthiness of our nation, then let them vote "no" and face the voters next year for the consequences of such a decision.
Meanwhile, the shutdown is hurting Pennsylvanians: 71,000 Federal workers in Pennsylvania are going without pay, and 227,254 Pennsylvanian small businesses can no longer access certain government loans.
One thing that's gotten lost in the debate over the shutdown is how much Democrats have already conceded to Republicans on spending. This is partly the consequence of the direct spending cuts in the 2011 debt-ceiling deal and partly the consequence of sequestration (which was, of course, also part of the 2011 deal). Still, the bottom line is that Republicans have been so successful at making Obamacare concessions the issue that Democratic concessions on spending have gone almost unnoticed.
Meanwhile, Jedd Lugum of Think Progress tweets out what kind of "compromise" the Republicans are demanding from Obama.
Anne Leonard and the makers of the Story of Stuff have come out with an important new video. The Story of Solutions explores how we can move our economy in a more sustainable and just direction, starting with orienting ourselves toward a new goal.
In the current 'Game of More', we're told to cheer a growing economy - more roads, more malls, more Stuff! - even though our health indicators are worsening, income inequality is growing and polar icecaps are melting. But what if we changed the point of the game? What if the goal of our economy wasn't more, but better - better health, better jobs and a better chance to survive on the planet?
October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, an annual campaign that was begun in October 1981 by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence to connect battered-women's advocates who were working to end violence against women and children.
Jewish Women International (JWI), the leading Jewish organization working to end domestic violence and empower women and girls, worked with OPI to create the limited-edition nail polish ─ which is purple, the color of the movement against domestic violence ─ to support its programs that empower girls and women to be safe and independent. OPI manufactured and donated 10,000 bottles of the custom nail color, and the sorority Sigma Delta Tau will distribute the polish through its 65 chapters on college campuses across the country including the University of Pennsylvania, Penn State and Rutgers (New Brunswick and Camden).
Representative Ted Cruz has demonstrated his ability to cow Speaker John Boehner and shape the Republican agenda in the House of Representative. As intended, his grandstanding will shutdown the parts of the United States Government tonight at midnight, and raise Cruz's prospects as poster boy for the Tea Party in the 2016 Republican primaries.
However, these theatrics and scary advertisements with a clown dressed up as Uncle Sam performing colonoscopies and gynecological exams will have no effect on the rollout of the Affordable Care Act (or "Obamacare" to some). The rollout of the insurance exchanges is mandated by law and will be unimpeded by the government shutdown.
Starting at midnight Americans around the country will have access to their state's insurance exchanges, giving many Americans access to affordable healthcare for the first time, and giving the rest of us an important alternative.
Information on how Obamacare is working for millions of women after the jump.
Ted Cruz's speech voicing his opposition to the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare was "technically not a filibuster" according to CSPAN since he was not delaying action on a bill, but it was still a long speech. Perhaps too long. When you starting comparing your opponent to Nazi appeasers, you probably have run out of intelligent things to say.
If you go to the 1940s, Nazi Germany. Look, we saw in Britain, Neville Chamberlain, who told the British people, "Accept the Nazis. Yes, they'll dominate the continent of Europe but that's not our problem. Let's appease them. Why? Because it can't be done. We can't possibly stand against them."
And in America there were voices that listened to that, I suspect those same pundits who say it can't be done, if it had been in the 1940s we would have been listening to them. Then they would have made television. They would have gotten beyond carrier pigeons and beyond letters and they would have been on TV and they would have been saying, "You cannot defeat the Germans."
B'nai B'rith International comment after the jump.
The Philadelphia Jewish Voice will give away two pairs of free tickets to Bryan Fogel and Sam Wolfson's film adaptation of their hit comedy Jewtopia, which premieres Friday. The movie stars Ivan Sergei, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Joel David Moore, Jamie-Lynn Sigler, Jon Lovitz and Rita Wilson.
In order to be able to win, just click here to sign yourself or a friend up for our free weekly newsletter. Use the comment field to indicate that you are interested in a pair of tickets. Two new subscribers will be chosen at random. Each will receive a pair of tickets, good to see the film at the AMC Theater in Plymouth Meeting, Monday-Thursday during the film's run.
Israel has turned 65 last May, and it is worth reflecting on what the modern State of Israel has done to create a strong and vibrant home for many Jews around the world.
At 65, Israel is clearly no "senior citizen" about getting on Social Security, and on the road to the golden years of retirement. On the contrary, Israel is vibrant, young, and alive. Even for those of us who do not live there, Israel resonates in our hearts as our historic homeland, as the focal point of the Jewish people, as a spiritual center, and as a continuing source of wonder, pride and joy.
Recent statements by U.S. President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry portend a forceful American response to the Syrian government's alleged use of chemical weapons.
Should the United States — and allies — strike Syria, both Iran and Syria have threatened to retaliate against Israel. This has received coverage in the popular press. The news media have also reported that Israel has had to call up reservists and deploy extra missile defenses, and even recounted:
In addition to [gas] masks, the Israeli government handed out small plastic tents designed to protect newborns and was running videos with step-by-step instructions on how to correctly don the gear.
What the media have missed are the multiple threats that Israel confronts beyond this immediate crisis. Israel literally faces peril on every border and Israelis are in danger from terrorists even when they travel abroad.
Infographic from the Israeli Embassy depicting some of the dangers, and more following the jump.
"You know the sound bites from Martin Luther King, Jr.'s famous "I Have a Dream" speech. But have you actually seen the whole thing?
"The speech was delivered 50 years ago today — August 28, 1963 — as part of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. It gave a powerful boost to the Civil Rights Movement and helped lead to passage of the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act." (Nick Berning)
Montgomery County residents rallied for Gun Violence Prevention and urged swing-district Congressman Jim Gerlach (R PA-6) to cosponsor the "Public Safety and Second Amendment Rights Protection Act of 2013" HR 1565 to keep guns out of dangerous hands.
The event was part of Organizing for Action's statewide day of action called "Hands Across Pennsylvania." At 12:30 residents joined hands to show solidarity in preventing gun violence.
"There are realities within life in Israel that also have to be taken into account here."
— by Steve Sheffey
Israel's announcement of new construction, in settlements beyond the 1967 cease-fire line with Jordan, is not an obstacle to peace. Secretary of State John Kerry and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas knew about it in advance, and it did not scuttle the peace talks. Significantly, and in contrast to previous administrations, the Obama administration has taken no action to force Israel to reverse this announcement, even though the Obama administration's position on settlements is the same as previous administrations.
Every administration since the Six Day War has opposed and condemned Israeli settlement construction. Secretary of State John Kerry said last week, "The policy of the United States of America with respect to all settlements is that they are illegitimate, and we oppose settlements taking place at any time, not just the time of the peace process."
Iran continues its quest for nuclear weapons. Many red lines have been crossed, and it is easy to find past predictions that Iran would already have a nuclear weapon by now. At least part of the reason for the delay is increasingly tough sanctions, and "a series of covert actions including cyberwar or cyber-sabotage that included Stuxnet, Duqu, and Flame, assassinations of key scientists in the Iranian nuclear program, and unnatural explosions at key Iranian missile and steel plants."
Iran has been slowed, but it continues to make progress. Some would accuse Israel of crying "wolf." But as Graham Allison reminds us:
The children's story about the boy who cried wolf is often cited to counsel against exaggeration of threat. We should remember how the story ends: The wolf actually arrives, and eats the boy.
Allison's article on Iran is one of the best I have ever read on the subject. If you are looking for one article that explains where we are and what is going on with Iran, this is it.
What would you do?
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What is going on in Egypt is terrible. But we should not cut off aid to Egypt, at least not yet. Several authorities whom I respect say we should cut off aid to Egypt, but I am not sure that anything happening now should affect our rationale for providing military aid to Egypt. Aid at the current level began after the Egypt signed its peace agreement with Israel. Its purpose is to promote military and intelligence cooperation between Egypt and Israel, which enhances regional stability and is in the best interests of the United States.
We gave aid when Sadat oppressed the Egyptians. We gave aid when Mubarek oppressed the Egyptians. We gave aid when the Muslim Brotherhood, whose values are antithetical to our values, was elected. Many thought that the Brotherhood would never give up power, much as Hamas has never given up power in Gaza after winning a democratic election. We will never know.
Now, the Egyptian military has killed hundreds of Muslim Brotherhood members. Bad things are currently happening to bad people. But the reasons for providing aid to Egypt remain valid. Could aid to a repressive regime make the Egyptians hate America? They are oppressing the Muslim Brotherhood, and the Muslim Brotherhood already hates Americans. There is no reason to believe that cutting off American aid to Egypt would turn the military into angels. If we cut off aid, we could remain with the same killing on the streets, plus less military and intelligence cooperation. How does that help? Unless we have a good reason to believe that military and intelligence cooperation will continue without U.S. aid, we should be very wary of reducing the current level of assistance.
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There is no evidence that the U.S. pressured Israel to release Palestinian prisoners in order to renew the peace talks. Prime Minister Netanyahu made this painful decision because he believes it is in Israel's best interests to negotiate a two-state solution, even at an unfairly high price.
So why did Israel release them? Blogger Matan Lurey summed it up perfectly: The Israel/Palestinian negotiations are about "peace, not justice; pragmatism, not revenge." The prisoner release was unfair, unjust, and — in the opinion of Prime Minister Netanyahu — in the best interests of Israel.
Perhaps Netanyahu could have brought the Palestinians back to the table with a settlement freeze (which he tried to do before, but it did not work), or an explicit agreement to negotiate based on the 1967 lines, but instead he decided to release the prisoners, which he said was "an incomparably difficult decision, it is painful for the bereaved families and it is painful for me."
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